When Juan Williams was unceremoniously dumped by NPR in a fit of pique in late October of last year over the looming midterm elections, then-NPR CEO Vivian Schiller told the Atlanta Press Club, “People have strong opinions and professional journalists have developed procedures and standards and practices to counter them. It’s to draw a fine line between reporter and commentary and punditry.”
Almost a year after Williams’ firing, and it’s amazing how gossamer-thin that line has become at NPR:
National Public Radio host Lisa Simeone appears to be breaking the taxpayer-subsidized network’s ethics rules by acting as a spokeswoman for Occupy D.C. group “October 2011,” which is currently “occupying” Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
When Roll Call asked Simeone about the conflict of interest and the apparent ethics violations, she replied, “Well, I work in radio still, but this is totally different” because she says she’s a “freelancer.” (SEE ALSO: NPR executives caught on tape bashing conservatives and tea party, touting liberals)
NPR’s ethics policy for journalists forbids them from “engag[ing] in public relations work, paid or unpaid.”
The code allows for exceptions in cases such as “certain volunteer nonprofit, nonpartisan activities, such as participating in the work of a church, synagogue or other institution of worship, or a charitable organization, so long as this would not conflict with the interests of NPR in reporting on activities related to that institution or organization.”
Simeone has appeared in several news stories in recent weeks as a spokeswoman for the left-wing anti-capitalists protests. “Our main focus is that we are against corporatism and militarism,” the radio host said, adding that the protesters plan to “occupy” Freedom Plaza for a long time.