NPR's Rap from the Right

Andrei Codrescu, a popular National Public Radio commentator, says he feels like his network "pulled a fast one" on him by making a public apology for his December 19 commentary which raised the ire of Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition. Codrescu admits to "making fun" of a fundamentalist Christian belief called the Rapture during his remarks, in response to what he described as a "hate-filled" pamphlet he received on a New Orleans street. But Reed charged Codrescu's statements were bigoted, blasphemous and anti-Christian.According to religious doctrine, millions of faithful will ascend to heaven with a returning Christ while the remaining non-believers perish in a worldly lake of fire. Reed was particularly offended by a section of Codrescu's commentary which stated, "The evaporation of 4 million people who believe this crap would leave the world a better place." Four days later, after press reports said Reed's right-wing coalition pledged to intensify its congressional anti-public radio lobbying efforts, a nervous NPR, whose federal funding is constantly in jeopardy in the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress, issued an on-air apology during its "All Things Considered" evening news show. NPR publicly said Codrescu's "remarks crossed a line of taste and tolerance that we should have defended with greater vigilance." "We spoke to Andrei who told us he would like to apologize for what, in hindsight, he regards as an inappropriate attempt at humor," the network's Kathy Scott said. "It is one that he regrets, and so does NPR." But reached in New Orleans, where he teaches English at Louisiana State University, Codrescu expressed displeasure at the network's apology on his behalf. "I think NPR was all wrong. I did not apologize," he says, adding that he was called by NPR's executive producer after the show and told there was "some unhappiness among the staff" about his remarks. "I told them perhaps I did express myself a bit strongly what with it being near Christmas, but that was the extent of any 'apology' on my part," Codrescu says. But he adds that he wasn't told it was the Christian Coalition which had complained. "I only learned about it when news organizations started calling me. So, NPR pulled a fast one on me and apologized on my behalf for the content when they shouldn't have." Codrescu feels the offending paragraph was "a bit of satire" taken out of context. "The remarks referred directly to people who believe in the Rapture, and I was saying if they got their wish, this would be a better place since these people believe such blood-curdling things, it's scary to have them around."Meanwhile, NPR rejected Reed's request for two minutes of air time to present his view. "At least they showed some integrity," says Codrescu, who adds that NPR has never rejected any of his commentaries, which have aired on the network since 1982. SIDEBAR: THE OFFENDING PASSAGEThe Rapture And The Discovery Of HellSomebody handed me a pamphlet on the street. The cover featured a red-winged devil straddling the Vatican between its hooves, with the number 666 and "VISA" written on his chest. Having just stretched my credit to the limit, I could agree with the sentiment -- Visa is the Devil. And so is Mastercard and American Express. Under the picture of the Devil, it said: "Very important: What to do in case you miss the Rapture." The Rapture, and I quote, is "the immediate departure from this Earth of over 4 million people in less than a fifth of a second." This happily volatilized mass are the Saved who were born again in Jesus Christ. Everybody left behind will, basically, go to Hell but not before experiencing Armageddon, which is a really bad end of the world. If you find yourself in this situation, there isn't much you can do except 1) starve yourself to death, or 2) get your HEAD CUT OFF. This loving Christmas message, coming as it did amid the jungle of the mall Santa and the twinkling manger at the corner of Canal and Ramparts streets in New Orleans, made it clear that the Rapture is indeed necessary. The evaporation of 4 million people who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place. Hell, by the way, where the rest will end up, has been found, according to the tabloids. It's under Brazil. It's a sea of molten lava where the damned are chained and boiled. The location was doubtlessly chosen very carefully because Brazil is very sexy. Countries like England and Canada were eliminated in the first round. The other good news concerning the afterlife has been reported in a letter in the Ann Landers column, informing us that "college-educated adults with incomes of more than $50,000 a year were the most certain that they were heaven-bound." Furthermore, "of the six in 10 Americans who believe there is a Hell, 77 percent do not believe they are going there." Cut my head off, will you? -- Andrei Codrescu Andrei Codrescu is an NPR commentator and editor of the 'zine, Exquisite Corpse

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