MEDIA

Ex-Host Michele Norris Blasts NPR For ‘Double Standards’ Amid Ethics Questions

The former "All Things Considered" co-host took aim at NPR as questions were raised about journalist Nina Totenberg's friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Michele Norris, former longtime co-host of NPR’s flagship news program “All Things Considered,” called out the company, which has faced questions this week about its journalistic ethics, for what she characterized Thursday as “double standards.”

Norris’s remarks on Twitter were spurred by an op-ed written by NPR’s Public Editor Kelly McBride, who criticized the company for not being fully transparent about the close, decades-long friendship between NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg and the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The women’s friendship ― and Totenberg’s failure to disclose the depth of it despite her extensive coverage of Ginsburg’s life and work — came under scrutiny after Totenberg described the relationship in a moving obituary published in the wake of the justice’s death Friday.

Totenberg has since dismissed concerns about any potential conflict.

McBride mentioned Norris ― who resigned from “All Things Considered” in 2011 after her husband accepted a position with President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign ― in her op-ed.

Norris’s resignation, McBride noted, is cited in the NPR newsroom’s ethics policy as an example of journalistic integrity. But, she added, “the biggest difference between Norris’ husband’s position with the campaign and Totenberg’s husband’s role as Ginsburg’s coordinating doctor during her lung cancer treatment is that one is very public and the other is not.” 

“When we fail to probe these decisions in public, we fail to question whether the systems that we’ve created truly reflect our values. I’m not saying journalists shouldn’t value independence. I’m advocating for an even application of the standard,” McBride wrote.

Reacting to the op-ed, Norris ― who was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2009 ― said that, although she admires NPR and respects Totenberg’s reporting, the company “needs to keep my name out of their memos unless they are going to fully cop to the double standards.”

In a letter penned to NPR staff announcing her resignation from “All Things Considered,” Norris said that she, along with NPR management, had decided her husband’s “new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting.” 

“This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we’ve been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally,” Norris wrote at the time.