ThinkProgress reported yesterday that earlier this week on Fox News, NPR’s Mara Liasson compared the widely successful “Cash for Clunkers” program to the Bush administration’s incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina. “Cash for Clunkers is like a mini-Katrina here,” Liasson said. “It’s not good to start a government program and not be able to execute it.” NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard responded today taking Liasson to task for her remarks. “Say what?” Shepard asked astonishingly. “It is inconceivable anyone could compare that disaster to Cash for Clunkers, which simply gives people a voucher worth up to $4,500 to trade in an old car for a newer, more fuel-efficient vehicle,” she said. In her response, Shepard quotes Liasson apologizing for the ridiculous analogy:
“I said something really stupid, which I regret,” Liasson told me. “I should have merely said anytime time the government does something less than competent, it makes it harder to get people to trust them with other programs. People died in Katrina because of government incompetence. I should not have used that as an analogy. I was thinking of an example of government incompetence and I picked one that was too big and egregious. I was over the top in my choice of a metaphor. It was a mistake.”
An NPR executive said “[i]f this had been said live on NPR’s air, we would have redone the interview.” “Whether Liasson likes it or not, making a gaffe on Fox reflects poorly on NPR — as many listeners have let me know,” Shepard said.