NPR Executives Question Mara Liasson’s Regular Appearances On Fox News

Politico reports that in October, NPR executives pressed national political correspondent Mara Liasson on whether her regular appearances on Fox News were appropriate:

According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.

At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said. […]

Liasson defended her work for Fox by saying that she appears on two of the network’s news programs, not on commentary programs with conservative hosts, the source said. She has also told colleagues that she’s under contract to Fox, so it would be difficult for her to sever her ties with the network, which she has appeared on for more than a decade.

The meeting came around the same time that the Obama administration began aggressively confronting Fox, with then-White House communications director Anita Dunn calling the network “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” NPR said that the administration’s criticisms had no impact on its decision with Liasson.


The other NPR journalist to regularly appear on Fox is news analyst Juan Williams, who has even been a guest host on The O’Reilly Factor. In January, he controversially said that First Lady Michelle Obama had a “Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going.” NPR Vice President of News then asked him to “remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O’Reilly,” although he continued to have affiliation on other Fox shows.

While NPR’s ethics guidelines allow journalists to appear on other media outlets, they clearly state that journalists should not “encourage punditry and speculation”:

10. In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.

In August, Liasson controversially compared the Cash for Clunkers program to a “mini-Katrina,” a comment for which she apologized a few days later. “By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations,” Slate editor Jacob Weisberg wrote in October. “Respectable journalists — I’m talking to you, Mara Liasson — should stop appearing on its programs.”