President Trump has never granted an interview to NPR, in part because they’re very hostile interviewers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got into an uproar with All Things Considered anchor Mary Louise Kelly. Last week, Attorney General William Barr submitted to an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep. There were a pile of questions suggesting Barr is too subservient to Trump, especially in undoing the Russiagate narrative.
But the best part came when they discussed systemic racism! Inskeep wasn’t expecting a powerful pushback on the media:
STEVE INSKEEP: You were asked about systemic racism the other day in law enforcement, and you said, if I may summarize briefly, it’s not really there. It was at one time. It was on the books. It was part of the law. The laws have been removed, and there are still problems, but law enforcement is working on that. And yet, statistically, just to pick one statistic, a black man in the United States, statistically, is far more likely to be shot by a police officer than someone of a different race. Why do you think that is?
WILLIAM BARR: Well, there are 8,000 blacks who are killed every year. Eighty-five percent of them are killed by gunshots. Virtually all of those are blacks on blacks. The statistics on police shootings of unarmed individuals are not skewed toward the African American. There are many whites who are shot unarmed by police.
Now, those numbers, as I said, have been going down in the past – five years ago was 38 African Americans who were unarmed were shot by police, 38 in the year. This past year was 10. Of those, six were physically attacking the police when they were shot. So these are not events that happen every day. I know the media is very interested in them because everyone is interested in them, but…
INSKEEP: Yeah. The public – I’ve already seen – my mom is interested.
INSKEEP: I mean, lots of people are interested.
BARR: Well, everyone’s interested in it, but – but I think the media, you know, is ignoring the fact that 8,000 African Americans are killed by crime in high-crime areas. And 10 were killed last year by police, six of whom were under attack when they shot. So you have to put it in perspective. And that’s why, you know, I think it is wrong to demonize all the police and all the police departments as, you know, systemically racist and going out looking to shoot unarmed black men.
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Usually, most of the – I’ve seen some cases where it appeared gratuitous, and obviously, those are serious cases and are pursued by the Department of Justice as civil rights violations. So I think you have to put these in perspective.
Inskeep came on at the end to admit Barr was pretty much right: “Barr’s numbers seem roughly correct. A Washington Post database found that in 2015, police did kill 38 African Americans described as unarmed. Last year, according to the Post, the number declined to 14.”
The media are spreading George Floyd’s name on a global scale, and no one can recite the name of an unarmed white person killed in America by police.
Unsurprisingly, when NPR interviewed Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder on April 27, 2012, it was a much friendlier affair. From our Bozell & Graham book Collusion:
NPR All Things Considered anchor Robert Siegel announced “a rare and personal glimpse of the man.” [Legal reporter Carrie] Johnson began by observing Holder walk quickly into the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she was granted the interview: “Eric Holder is looking back on the arc of his career. After nearly thirty years of government service, he’s achieved his highest goal.”
NPR listeners were supposed to get a thrill up their legs during rush hour because Holder was attorney general. “The attorney general lingered, wordless over footage of Mr. Clinton’s campaign speeches. He had more to say in front of an exhibit of the Little Rock Nine. They were black schoolchildren who tried to integrate Central High School here in 1957, only to be met by violent mobs and soldiers blocking the door.” Holder solemnly proclaimed: “These are the folks who make, you know, Barack Obama possible, Eric Holder possible.”
In the entire seven-minute, 39-second story, there was absolutely no mention of Fast and Furious. Holder proclaimed, “I serve a president who is among other things a great lawyer. And he spends a great deal of time, great deal of interest focused on the Justice Department, which is a good thing—most of the time.” But neither one of them could be blamed for fumbling Fast and Furious? Neither could be challenged to take ownership of what they launched?
There were more important matters to cover. Johnson wasted time ribbing Holder about the Justice Department suing Apple: “So you’re hoping you’re still on a first-name basis with the guy at the Apple store?” Holder replied they were still happy to see him.