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NPR tells employees to avoid Stewart, Colbert rallies (video)

October 13, 2010 - 12:46 PM
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Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" and Stephen Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive," but if you work for National Public Radio, you'll have to watch from home — unless, that is, you're assigned to cover the event. Vivian Schiller, NPR's president and CEO Vivian Schiller, sent a discouraging email this morning to the entire staff that reads:

However, no matter where you work at NPR you should be very mindful that you represent the organization and its news coverage in the eyes of your friends, neighbors and others. So please think twice about the message you may be sending about our objectivity before you attend a rally or post a bumper sticker or yard sign. We are all NPR.

Schiller doesn't explicitly prohibit staffers from attending the Oct. 30 rally in D.C. But minutes earlier, Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior vice president for news, had sent an email to news staff that states:

NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.

Meanwhile, on his show last night, Colbert said he continues to face difficulty securing a location for his march: 

There is one small detail about this march that has me a little nervous: I forgot to apply for a permit. I mean, since when do you need a permit to visit the Mall in Washington D.C.? People picnic there all the time! It just so happens I want to picnic with thousands of friends and a stadium soundsystem. What's the biggie? I'll put down a blanket. Well, I informed the National Park Service of my predicament and I've been waiting for their response all day long.

He then pulled out a fake letter that read, "Dear Mr. Colbert, you are so screwed. Sincerely, the U.S. Government." He continued:

Okay, but folks, do not cancel your plans. I'm sure there are plenty of places in D.C. where we can hold a march. I mean places off the beaten path, where like-minded folks can gather together. You know, wherever Congressmen go for secret gay liaisons. And if all else fails, I have been working on a backup plan. My cousin Marty lives in Alexandria and he said we can use his basement if we clear out the drum set, and if, after the rally, we help him put together his NordicTrack.

Is this getting old yet? Perhaps. But Stewart had some good news for NPR employees and others who can't make it to the Mall: The rally will be streamed online and broadcast live on Comedy Central. He also offered a few behavioral guidelines, inspired by a parade in Pyongyang and a streaker at a Obama rally: "No nudity, no throwing stuff, and no totalitarian fascism. The guidelines are basically this: When in doubt, don't be douchey." 

But now that official merchandise is available for purchase — proceeds go to good causes — you have every right to be reasonable or scary.

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