Alicia C. Shepard
Live radio is tricky. Some times reporters talking 'live' say things they instantly regret.
Just ask NPR political editor Ken Rudin, who appears on the Political Junkie segment every Wednesday on Talk of the Nation. He said something this week that resulted in a flood of instant criticism.
Rudin told listeners he thinks the Obama administration is unwise to take on Fox News. The administration has gone to war against the network calling it a mouthpiece for the Republican Party.
Rudin compared the administration's boycott with Fox to President Richard Nixon's enemies list. During the Watergate scandal, the Nixon administration compiled a list of enemies. Its official purpose was to "screw" Nixon's political enemies. Notably NPR's Dan Schorr was on it.
Here's what Rudin said:
"Well, it's not only aggressive, it's almost Nixonesque. I mean, you think of what Nixon and Agnew did with their enemies list and their attacks on the media; certainly Vice President Agnew's constant denunciation of the media. Of course, then it was a conservative president denouncing a liberal media, and of course, a lot of good liberals said, 'Oh, that's ridiculous. That's an infringement on the freedom of press.' And now you see a lot of liberals almost kind of applauding what the White House is doing to Fox News, which I think is distressing."
Thursday, Rudin apologized, admitting he'd made a "boneheaded mistake."
"Comparing the tactics of the Nixon administration —which bugged and intimidated and harassed journalists — to that of the Obama administration was foolish, facile, ridiculous and, ultimately embarrassing to me," wrote Rudin. "I should have known better and, in fact, I do know better. I was around during the Nixon years. I am fully cognizant of what they did and attempted to do."
As he noted in his apology, what the Obama administration is doing is a "far cry from illegal and unconstitutional activities."
While it was a dumb thing to say, I applaud Rudin for quickly apologizing. Journalists are going to make mistakes — not intentionally but they will happen. Acknowledging them goes a long way to maintaining credibility.