"The Responsibility of Intellectuals," a three-part program, aired this weekend on the Wisconsin Public Radio show, "To the Best of our Knowledge". Although the program focuses more on American power in the world generally, the issues raised have additional resonance for listeners attuned to American foreign and domestic policies related to Israel/Palestine. Interviews with Noam Chomsky and academics who question the exploitation of anthropologists in the war on terror juxtapose with a later one with Christopher Hitchens -- in which he decries the political correctness of the Left.
In the close of the interview of Noam Chomsky, he raised the subject of NPR censorship:
"...in fact on paper, since we're on NPR, the co-host of All Things Considered Robert Siegel wrote that I'm the one person they'll never allow on their prime-time program."
The host of the show read a rebuttal by Siegel in which he denied having said such a thing or having the power at NPR to ban anyone and threw in some colorful remarks about conspiracy theorists along with a harrowing account of an interview with Chomsky. As a commenter on the site's facebook page notes, there is at least one reference to Siegel's public statements about Chomsky in print, from the Duke Chronicle, 1994:
I was surprised to hear National Public Radio's Robert Siegel, on his own, volunteer that independent thinkers like Noam Chomsky are not welcome on NPR's news and discussion programs.
It was the last day of a book tour for the co-host of "All Things Considered," and he was signing copies of "The NPR Interviews," which he edited, at Durham's Regulator book store. He was accompanied by WUNC General Manager Bill Davis.
After the first wave of books had been signed, I approached Siegel and expressed concern over the lack of range in political commentary on NPR. I explained that I felt that the public interest was not very fully explored, and that an "inside the beltway" mentality and bias prevails. Siegel made a token statement of agreement, saying that it would be worthwhile to find more voices, but quickly limited it by saying, "However, we wouldn't be interested in airing the views of such media and political critics as Noam Chomsky."'
So, Siegel is on record about Chomsky in paper as quoted in the Duke Chronicle. In his rebuttal, Siegel claims that any editorial power he had at the network ended in the 80's. Siegel's story about his interview from hell with Chomsky years ago might explain why he personally might refuse ever to interview him again, but it wouldn't account for why he would say in 1994 that "we wouldn't be interested in airing the views of such media and political critics as Noam Chomsky."
Siegel also disclaimed that Chomsky is banned from NPR by mentioning Chomsky's recent interview by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. But in that piece, Garcia-Navarro, who is stationed in Israel/Palestine, spoke to Chomsky as the subject of a news story-- he had been denied entry to the West Bank by Israel. That news item was covered by several networks. It wasn't as if NPR gave any airtime to Chomsky's views.
Note that Siegel doesn't say here that Chomsky is the "the one person they'll never allow on their prime-time program" (Chomsky's line). Rather, Chomsky is either the one identified intellectual among several whom Siegel considers uacceptable as NPR commenters or the personification of what Siegel considers too fringe for NPR listeners. Still, after decades of hearing NPR interviewing right-wing nutjobs for "balance" in its commentary, one can't be surprised if Chomsky took Siegel's words at Duke personally -- especially when it took making the news to finally get a call from NPR.