Listeners push back after NPR interviews Rep. Steve King

NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep had to defend his network’s choice to interview Iowa Rep. Steve King today.

King, who has regularly made racist comments that play well in his blood-red district — where his challenger dropped out of the race last week, citing death threats — is possibly the most extreme of the extreme right wing in Congress.

But Morning Edition needed someone to speak for the conservative side after spending six minutes earlier in this morning’s broadcast with Maine Rep. Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats. He’s not exactly a liberal firebrand.

But Steve King? Steve King usually uses a flamethrower. Still, it was a relatively tame interview.

“We can’t deny the American people their mandate,” King, a loyal Trump supporter, said.

The Morning Edition audience, at least the one that tweets, was not pleased.

To his credit, Inskeep momentarily engaged the angry listeners on Twitter, although he provided nothing in the way of illumination, and his response was passive aggressive.

That’s a good enough answer only if you believe the visceral reaction to NPR’s choice is because its audience doesn’t want to hear opposing views. And to an extent, surveys of Americans have revealed, that’s true.

But there’s a deeper problem that Inskeep doesn’t seem to understand.

He and Morning Edition have too often, chosen the most radical speaker to represent the perspective of conservatives. He did it with Patrick Buchanan during the campaign, you may recall.

King, who has suggested white people need to procreate more to avoid people of color taking over “our civilization”, is a poor choice if the goal is a constructive discussion of conflicting ideas.

Steve King has zero credibility to talk about substantive issues. White supremacy does that to a person. If there’s a congressman in America who deserves marginalization more than amplification, it’s King.

So several things could be going on here: (1) The network wanted someone with a history of inflammatory rhetoric to spice the broadcast; (2) No other Republican in Congress wanted to be on Morning Edition; (3) The network wants to portray conservatives in the worst possible light or (4) The network legitimately believes that Steve King advances the national dialogue.

Which? Who knows? I’ve reached out to NPR news boss Michael Oreskes for an explanation.

But it’s more than fair to say that NPR is full of very smart people who are well aware that the road to an intelligent and valuable discussion on politics doesn’t go through Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, a fact that makes Inskeep’s defense ring as hollow as this morning’s interview.