Former NPR contributor Juan Williams used an availability with reports before a Monday event at Washington University to repeat his claim that the network would better serve its journalistic values if it gave up government funding.
NPR may be selective in the voices it uses to tell stories, Williams said, often excluding those with a more conservative point of view. But with the voices it uses, it produces quality journalism.
"It’s too much to ask of journalists to be looking over their shoulder to be seeing if Republicans or Democrats are happy with what they’re saying in terms of news reporting," he said.
The whole fight over funding, he said, is just a ruse to keep donations flowing in. And it also, he said, reveals a a liberal bias at NPR because Democrats are holding the organization up as a counterweight to Fox News – his current employer.
Williams also argued that those same correspondents would be further served better if NPR reduced its dependents on foundations and other non-profits.
Commercial radio brings in advertising dollars because it offers a product that people want and is therefore attractive to advertisers, he said. NPR's audience is large, loyal and wealthy enough to serve as its main source of funds. And while foundations may donate to the network for the same reasons as listeners, the amount of money makes Williams pause.
"They can come in and they can say well, we would like to give you a certain amount of money to increase coverage in a certain area. And so what you get are messages that are delivered and reporting that’s done to satisfy the donation," he said. "To me, it becomes a complicating factor."
Williams first called for stripping federal money for NPR (which comes from funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) about two weeks after a now-fired network fundraiser was caught on tape by someone working with conservative activist James O'Keefe telling a fake prospective donor that NPR would be better off in the long run without federal funding. That executive, Ron Schiller, and another fundraiser are also heard making disparaging remarks about conservatives.
The U.S. House has voted to strip CPB funding from the budget for the current year, but that effort faces a harder path in the U.S. Senate.