NPR suspends editor who accused the network of liberal bias

National Public Radio has suspended Uri Berliner, a senior editor who earlier this month claimed in an essay that the network had “lost America’s trust” by pushing progressive views in its coverage while suppressing dissenting opinions.

Berliner’s suspension was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who said that the senior editor was suspended for five days without pay starting on Friday. A formal rebuke from NPR said Berliner had violated its policy of securing prior approval to write for other news outlets, and warned that he would be fired if he breached those guidelines in future, Folkenflik reported.

NPR declined to comment to CBS News. “NPR does not comment on individual personnel matters, including discipline,” a spokesperson said. 

Berliner’s essay in the Free Press caused a firestorm of debate, with some conservatives, including former President Donald Trump, calling on the government to “defund” the organization. Some of Berliner’s NPR colleagues also took issue with the essay, with “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep writing on his Substack that the article was “filled with errors and omissions.”

“The errors do make NPR look bad, because it’s embarrassing that an NPR journalist would make so many,” Inskeep wrote.

In the essay, Berliner wrote that NPR has always had a liberal bent, but that for most of his 25 year tenure it had retained an open-minded, curious culture. “In recent years, however, that has changed,” he wrote. “Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population.”

Berliner added, “[W]hat’s notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview. The “absence of viewpoint diversity” is “is the most damaging development at NPR,” he wrote. 

After the essay’s publication, NPR’s top editor, Edith Chapin, said she strongly disagrees with Berliner’s conclusions and is proud to stand behind NPR’s work.

COVID coverage, DEI initiatives

Berliner criticized coverage of major events at NPR, singling out its reporting on COVID and Hunter Biden as problematic. With the first topic, he wrote that the network didn’t cover a theory that COVID-19 had been created in a Chinese lab, a theory he claimed NPR staffers “dismissed as racist or a right-wing conspiracy.”

He also took NPR for task for what he said was failing to report developments related to Hunter Biden’s laptop. “With the election only weeks away, NPR turned a blind eye,” Berliner wrote. 

Berliner also criticized NPR for its internal management, citing what he claims is a growing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, or DEI.

“Race and identity became paramount in nearly every aspect of the workplace,” Berliner wrote. “A growing DEI staff offered regular meetings imploring us to ‘start talking about race’.”

Inskeep said Berliner’s essay left out the context that many other news organizations didn’t report on Hunter Biden’s laptop over questions about its authenticity. He also disputed Berliner’s characterization that NPR editors and reporters don’t debate story ideas. 

“The story is written in a way that is probably satisfying to the people who already believe it, and unpersuasive to anyone else — a mirror image of his critique of NPR,” Inskeep wrote.

—With reporting by the Associated Press.

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