Last month, NPR’s “Day to Day” aired a fairly lengthy explanation of why the previous day’s guest had apportioned to the US part of the blame for Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas on Kurdish villages in the 1980s. The person “Day to Day” chose to explain the matter was Peter Galbraith, a former diplomat who has advised and represented the Kurdish government for a number of years. That connection was not mentioned in Galbraith’s introduction or in the interview, leaving the uninformed listener to believe that he was simply someone interested in the Kurds, not someone who has actually worked for them in a semi-official capacity.
Last Friday, the same program aired a segment discussing President Clinton’s interview with “FOX News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. The segment featured NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams, who said the thinking in Washington insider circles was that Clinton had “set-up” Wallace and FOX. However, the introduction of Williams didn’t make any mention that he’s been an employee of FOX News for the past decade.
On Monday, “Day to Day” included this in their Letters segment:
ALEX CHADWICK: Also Steve, I see letters about an interview on Friday with NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams, a regular Friday guest. He was talking about an interview that President Clinton had the previous weekend on the FOX TV channel.
STEVE PROFFITT: THat’s right, Alex, and we should have said Juan contributes to FOX News as a commentator. We didn’t, and we apologize.
Even more accurately, they might have mentioned that Williams and NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson had been half of the panel discussion that directly followed the airing of the Clinton/Wallace interview on “FOX News Sunday”.
At least the people at “Day to Day” had some small recognition that they’d made a mistake. I sent emails to the show, the NPR ombudsman (there isn’t actually one at the moment, supposedly an assistant’s reading the mail), and to Williams himself, pointing out that someone discussing whether their employer and co-worker were “set-up” might be a bit of a conflict of interest. Williams’s reply sounds like it could have come out of a Bob Woodward book:
Thanks for the note. And thanks for paying attention. The answer to your question is that the topic of discussion was the former president’s interview with Chris Wallace. I was not a party to the interview. My analysis was about the repercussions and debate about the controversy. I have no conflict of interest there. — Juan