BuzzFeed may have OK’ed its staff calling Donald Trump a lying racist, but National Public Radio won’t be doing the same and calling Trump racist.
NPR public editor Elizabeth Jensen responded to questions from readers and listeners about the possibility of following BuzzFeed’s lead. NPR’s editorial director and senior vice president of news Michael Oreskes told Jensen that NPR shouldn’t make that characterization and, instead, simply offer descriptions of the information a candidate is releasing.
Oreskes “rejects the idea that NPR, which serves an audience with wide-ranging political views, needs to label Trump, or anyone else, for that matter,” Jensen reported, quoting him as saying, “Our job is to help you understand this phenomenon.”
Oreskes went on: “It’s not our job to say that Donald Trump is a ‘mendacious racist’… It’s our job to give you the material to decide what you think about that and if you believe he’s a mendacious racist, that’s your call.” Oreskes did OK calling out false information made by candidates.
Jensen pointed to NPR standards editor Mark Memmott’s Dec. 17 memo about not letting inaccurate information stand.
“When politicians and public officials (or anyone, for that matter) say things that don’t fit the facts, we should point it out – and we are, as the ‘Break It Down’ fact-checks show,” Memmott wrote. As an example, he suggested:
“If the evidence shows that a claim clearly doesn’t add up, we don’t need to qualify with a ‘critics contend’ or a ‘some say.’ State what is known and how we’ve reached that conclusion (for example, ‘an NPR search of news accounts and police records found no evidence to support the claim’).”
In early December, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief Ben Smith issued a memo to staff saying that they wouldn’t get in trouble for calling Trump a “mendacious racist.”
“He’s out there saying things that are false, and running an overtly anti-Muslim campaign,” Smith wrote, saying that it is factual to call him a racist.