NPR’s New Chief Executive Faces Growing Scrutiny Amid Fallout From Senior Editor’s Resignation

Critics are also demanding NPR have its government funding withdrawn for prioritizing politics over journalism.

NPR's new chief executive, Katherine Maher, during a TED talk. TED

National Public Radio’s new chief executive, Katherine Maher, is facing growing scrutiny for comments she made years before stepping into her post which suggested, to critics, a disinterest in “the truth.”  

Ms. Maher came into her role last month — her first at a news organization, as Elon Musk pointed out. Yet she has quickly found herself at the center of a scandal sparked by veteran NPR editor Uri Berliner and his bombshell essay charging that the institution has “lost America’s trust.” In his resignation statement on Wednesday, he said he was “disparaged” in the newsroom by the chief executive and her “divisive views.” 

Ms. Maher called the former editor’s essay “profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.”

Now, critics like conservative activist Christopher Rufo have been uncovering social media posts and public statements by Ms. Maher. In tweets, she called President Trump racist and appeared to side with looters in the riots that swept the country in 2020. 

A TED talk has resurfaced in which Ms. Maher said that “our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that’s getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done.” The model of Wikipedia, she added, “actually works really well” in determining “what the truth really is.” Ms. Maher was at one point chief executive of the Wikimedia Foundation.

In comments made in 2021 through the Atlantic Council, where Ms. Maher serves as a nonresident senior fellow, she said the First Amendment makes it “a little bit tricky” for platforms to identify where information comes from and “the influence peddlers” who spread it. She noted that the amendment provides “a fairly robust protection of rights” in America. 

Calls are growing for NPR to have its government funding withdrawn, as some say the outlet has prioritized politics over quality journalism. As one X user put it, “our tax dollars are better spent elsewhere.”

The organization’s staff are also in turmoil. Roughly 50 NPR employees have signed a letter urging Ms. Maher and a top editor, Edith Chapin, to denounce the “factual inaccuracies and elisions” Mr. Berliner’s essay. 

They are also demanding “public support and defense of those whose work was undermined by the opinion piece,” citing the “harassment” they have faced as a consequence. They seek details on how the drama “affects NPR’s editorial direction.” 

The New York Sun

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