October 25, 2010

Aw, Ruth Ann! You're Better Than This! I know You Are!

In today's column, one that's critical of NPR's firing of Juan Williams, P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey writes:
And perhaps Mr. Williams' true sin was that he voiced his opinion on Fox News. After all -- as conservative shows and websites have recounted with relish -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg regularly goes far beyond subtle cultural bias, praising left-wing politicians and policies and sharing opinions about the very Supreme Court cases she covers. She even opined once that, if there is "retributive justice," Sen. Jesse Helms or one of his grandchildren "will get AIDS from a transfusion."
Ruth Ann is hoping that you won't check her work and that you'll just assume that Totenberg said what Ruth Ann says she said.

On it's face, it looks bad for Nina. What sort of person would even allow AIDS level suffering on another human being? And anyway when did this happen?

Let's go to the video:

And now we're getting somewhere. It was July of 1995. In trashing Totenberg for her, at the very least, inartful words, does Ruth Ann or anyone even wonder why they were talking about Jesse Helms like that in early July of 1995?

Perhaps it was this article in the New York Times.
Senator Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who has vigorously fought homosexual rights, wants to reduce the amount of Federal money spent on AIDS sufferers, because, he says, it is their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct" that is responsible for their disease.

Moreover, he argues, AIDS is only the ninth-leading cause of death in America but accounts for more Federal financing than diseases that kill more people (an assertion not supported by Public Health Service figures).

"We've got to have some common sense, " Mr. Helms maintained in an interview, "about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts."
The Congress was looking to reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act of 1990 and the gay-hating Helms was getting in the way:
Despite broad bipartisan support for the measure in both houses of Congress, it appears stalled. In the Senate, the bill has cleared the committee level but has yet to reach the floor. This is in large measure due to Senator Helms, given the latitude any single member of the Senate has to tie up proceedings.
Now look again at what he said. He was looking to reduce federal funding because AIDS sufferers are suffering because it is their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct". Meaning anal-sex, of course.

Nevermind that Ryan White contracted the disease through tainted blood products.

According to the HRSA, the act:
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is the largest Federal program focused exclusively on HIV/AIDS care. The program is for individuals living with HIV/AIDS who have no health insurance (public or private), have insufficient health care coverage, or lack financial resources to get the care they need for their HIV disease. As such, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program fills gaps in care not covered by other funding sources.
That's what Senator Helms was holding up in July of 1995. AIDS sufferers who couldn't afford health care would have some options they might not otherwise have. Jesse Helms wanted some of them to suffer because he was disgusted by anal sex. Had he succeeded, Ruth Ann, how much more human suffering would there have been directly attributed to his disgust?

It's not something I would've said, but perhaps that's why Nina Totenberg said that "if there's retributive justice he'll get AIDS through a transfusion." Helms' own hatred would have furthered human suffering.

Jesse Helms was a mean bastard.


Piltdown Man said...

Before I landed here tonight, I wrote the following to Ms. Dailey:

What is it about NPR that scares you so much? Is it that they actually cover real news every day and
aren't beholden to a corporation with a profit motive? Making sport of their "approach" is all well and good.
Have your laugh. I'll join you. And I'll admit they aren't perfect. But what do you propose; that they hew to the violent, angry style of talk radio or Fox? Or the "news you can use" approach of local (and now) network news? Would that make you happy? Is that what "news" is supposed to be?

The entire Juan Williams imbroglio is a tempest in a teapot, only kept at the boiling point by people like
yourself, who want to kill the last decent news service left to Americans. Despite the dismal economy, NPR still has reporters on the ground in hotspots around the world. ABC, NBC and CBS long ago gave up on that. Today, the onetime news leaders mimic the happy talk style of local news and slant their coverage to appeal to the 50+ crowd with a variety of health issues -- who are the only ones left watching.

As to Juan Williams? He asked for this. It's a simple case of an employee overstepping his bounds
after having been warned repeatedly. My guess, and it's only that, is that he engineered the entire thing
to help hasten his exit from NPR and grease the skids for a bigger paycheck at Fox. He isn't getting any
younger, and like our former Governor Tom Ridge, he's looking for a sweet payday before he is too old
or irrelevant.

NPR is by far the best, most accurate, most deliberative news source in the United States. You might not like the fact that they actually talk about gays or lesbians or Croats or Hmongs, but they cover more important topics more intelligently in one day than anyone else around. And isn't it amazing that they are secure enough that they have no problem with Harry Shearer lampooning them? What other outlet would allow that for one second?

To the 2PJ crowd I'll add this. Nina Totenberg is one of the most thoughtful, clear-thinking journalists I've ever heard. She is able to take complex legal issues and distill them brilliantly, without dumbing them down.

Make no mistake; the nascent anti-NPR movement is in full swing now -- and Juan Williams is as complicit as anyone. My sense is that this will fade away, since it is such a thing string to hand someone with, but the Right Wing has done more with less......

Piltdown Man

Piltdown Man said...
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