NPR backtracks on pro-looting interview, tweet about Kenosha shooter

NPR scolded on Biden story

Public editor says delay hurt network.

NPR is reeling and red-faced after running a softball interview with the author of a book praising looting and a tweet accusing President Trump of defending the Kenosha shooter "without evidence."

Those stories, combined with another interviewing voters, "reflect how NPR audience members needed more context to reconcile the speech of a news source with the broader truth," the outlet's public editor Kelly McBride wrote.

Published on Thursday, McBride's statement included mea culpas from individual editors and plainly admitted that NPR employees should have done more to counteract false claims.

In an interview on her new book "In Defense of Looting," author Vicky Osterweil attacked the U.S.'s idea of property as "derived through whiteness and Black oppression." Osterweil also called it a "Republican myth" that small business owners should be respected and are a part of "the community."

Referring to that interview on NPR's Code Switch, McBride said: "Osterweil went on to say that looting is insured, that looters target businesses that aren't rooted in the local community and that the civil rights movement only adopted non-violence to appeal to white northerners. All of those statements deserved pushback."

According to McBride, Code Switch editor Steven Drummond "said that the article was fact-checked, but not enough." In a quote provided by McBride, he admitted his team should have challenged Osterweil's claims but argued the basic idea of interviewing Osterweil.

"This notion of looting and the role it plays in the public discourse is a fair target, and we often interview authors who have controversial opinions and viewpoints. We should have challenged them more," Drummond reportedly said.

Chief Washington editor Shirley Henry similarly admitted fault, saying the news organization "should have been more precise" in reporting on Trump's comments about Kyle Rittenhouse acting in self-defense when he shot multiple protesters. Fox News reported Tuesday on how despite Trump specifically referencing video footage in his comments, NPR said he made the claim "without evidence." While Rittenhouse has been charged with homicide, video of the Aug. 25 incident shows him being pursued by several people, one of whom was armed, before he shot three people, killing two.

That wasn't the first time the outlet, which has received taxpayer-funded grants, has been criticized for its coverage of ongoing unrest. It previously suggested that Portland authorities might be racist in labeling violent demonstrations as "riots." The outlet's headline read: "Police Declare Portland Protests A Riot But This Definition Could Be Rooted In Racism."

Dan Gainor, vice president of the conservative Media Research Center, accused the outlet of left-wing bias. "There is no legitimate argument for @NPR to exist as a taxpayer-funded entity. It is ridiculously leftist and biased against the right," he tweeted on Tuesday.

Gainor's organization has long accused NPR of bias and documented examples on its blog

McBride suggested it was inappropriate to accuse the outlet of bias, though, pointing to one of the interviews she called out in her post on Thursday.

"If you look at NPR's flawed insertion of 'without evidence' to Trump's assessment of the Kenosha shooting and then look at the lack of fact-checking on the interview with the author of the book on looting, a casual observer might see a bias. But add in the David Greene interviews and you see that as a critic, some calibration is required," she said.

NPR's David Greene had interviewed two women — Lena Crandell and Mary Jean of Arizona – whom McBride claimed offered "awkwardly false" information.

Referring to those interviews, McBride said: "When Greene asks Crandell what she would say to a Black neighbor who fears for the life of her child, Crandell blames her neighbor's perception on media coverage. When Greene challenges her, Mary Jean admits that she doesn't really know for sure if New York and other cities are more violent, because she's not there."

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