NPR Editor Blasts the Public-Funded Company for Political Bias and Activism

by | Apr 10, 2024

In a scathing account from within National Public Radio (NPR), Senior Editor Uri Berliner blasted the company for open political bias and activism. Berliner, who says that he is liberal politically, wrote about how NPR went from a left-leaning media outlet to a virtual Democratic operation echoing narratives from figures like Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Cal.). The objections have long been voiced, including on this blog, but this account is coming from a long-standing and respected editor from within the company.

Beliner details how NPR, like many media outlets, became openly activist after the election of Donald Trump to the point that the company now employs 87 registered Democrats in editorial positions but not a single Republican in its Washington, DC, headquarters.

In his essay for The Free Press, Berliner notes that after Trump’s election in 2016, the most notable change was shutting down any skepticism or even curiosity about the truth of Democratic talking points in scandals like Russiagate. Berliner said that NPR “hitched our wagon” to Schiff and his now debunked claims.

Berliner says that he was rebuffed in seeking a modicum of balance in the coverage about the coronavirus “lab leak theory,” the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the 2016 Russia hoax.

As discussed on this blog, NPR repeated false stories like the claims from the Lafayette Park riot. Berliner gives an account that is strikingly familiar for many of us who have raised the purging of conservative or libertarian voices from our faculties in higher education:

“So on May 3, 2021, I presented the findings at an all-hands editorial staff meeting. When I suggested we had a diversity problem with a score of 87 Democrats and zero Republicans, the response wasn’t hostile. It was worse. It was met with profound indifference. I got a few messages from surprised, curious colleagues. But the messages were of the “oh wow, that’s weird” variety, as if the lopsided tally was a random anomaly rather than a critical failure of our diversity North Star.

In a follow-up email exchange, a top NPR news executive told me that she had been “skewered” for bringing up diversity of thought when she arrived at NPR. So, she said, “I want to be careful how we discuss this publicly.”

For years, I have been persistent. When I believe our coverage has gone off the rails, I have written regular emails to top news leaders, sometimes even having one-on-one sessions with them. On March 10, 2022, I wrote to a top news executive about the numerous times we described the controversial education bill in Florida as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill when it didn’t even use the word gay. I pushed to set the record straight, and wrote another time to ask why we keep using that word that many Hispanics hate—Latinx. On March 31, 2022, I was invited to a managers’ meeting to present my observations”

Former NPR analyst Juan Williams stated in an interview this week that, as a strong liberal voice (now at Fox), he found the same bias at NPR. Williams was fired by NPR as this shift seemed to go into high gear toward greater intolerance for opposing views.

Despite these criticisms, NPR has doubled down on its activism. For example, when it came time to select a new CEO, NPR could have tacked to the center to address the growing criticism. Instead, the new CEO became instant news over social media postings that she deleted before the recent announcement of her selection. Katherine Maher is the former CEO of Wikipedia and sought to remove controversial postings on subjects ranging from looters to Trump. Those deleted postings including a 2018 declaration that “Donald Trump is a racist” and a variety of race-based commentary. That included a statement that appeared to excuse looting.

NPR has abandoned core policies on neutrality as its newsroom has become more activist and strident. For example, NPR declared that it would allow employees to participate in political protests when the editors believe the causes advance the “freedom and dignity of human beings.”

The rule itself shows how impressionistic and unprofessional media has become in the woke era. NPR does not try to define what causes constitute advocacy for the “freedom and dignity of human beings.” How about climate change and environmental protection? Would it be prohibited to protest for a forest but okay if it is framed as “environmental justice”?

NPR seems to intentionally keep such questions vague while only citing such good causes as Black Lives Matter and gay rights:

“Is it OK to march in a demonstration and say, ‘Black lives matter’? What about a Pride parade? In theory, the answer today is, “Yes.” But in practice, NPR journalists will have to discuss specific decisions with their bosses, who in turn will have to ask a lot of questions.”

So the editors will have the power to choose between acceptable and unacceptable causes.

The bias seemed to snowball into a type of willful blindness in the coverage of the outlet, which is supported by federal funds.

After the New York Post first reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020, NPR declared that it would not cover the story. It actually issued a statement that seemed to proudly refuse to pursue the story, which was found to be legitimate:

“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions.”

Berliner’s account is reminiscent of the recent disclosures from within the New York Times. Former editors have described that same open intolerance for opposing views and a refusal to balance coverage.

Former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet has finally spoken publicly about his role in one of the most disgraceful chapters in American journalism: the Times’ cringing apology for running a 2020 column by Sen. Tom Cotton. Bennet said publisher AG Sulzberger “set me on fire and threw me in the garbage” to appease the mob.

Former New York Times editor Adam Rubenstein also wrote a lengthy essay at The Atlantic that pulled back the curtain on the newspaper and its alleged bias in its coverage. The essay follows similar pieces from former editors and writers that range from Bari Weiss to his former colleague James Bennet. The essay describes a similar work environment where even his passing reference to liking Chick-Fil-A sandwiches led to a condemnation of shocked colleagues.

None of this is likely to change the culture at NPR any more than such discussions have changed faculties in higher education. Raising the virtual elimination of conservative or Republican voices on faculties is met by the same forced expressions of disbelief. While mild concern is expressed, it is often over the “perception” of those of us who view universities as intolerant or orthodox.

Of course, there remains the question of why the public should give huge amounts of money to a media outlet that is so politically biased. News outlets have every right to pursue such political agendas, but none but NPR claim public support, including from half of the country that embraces the viewpoints that it routinely omits from its airways.

Reprinted with permission from


  • Jonathan Turley

    Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.

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