Leaked NPR Emails: Don’t Call Kermit Gosnell an ‘Abortion Doctor’

The Daily Beast | 9/19/2018 | Staff
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Early last month, John Sullivan, executive producer of the new film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (in theaters Oct. 12), reached out to National Public Radio to purchase a sponsorship for the Peabody Award-winning interview show, Fresh Air.

Sullivan, who was prepared to spend as much as six figures, crafted his ad copy to answer the question you’re probably asking: Who is Gosnell? The proposed ad was as follows, “Support for this NPR program comes from the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The film is the true story of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. A story the mainstream media tried to cover up because it reveals the truth about abortion.”

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No dice. According to e-mails provided to The Daily Beast, NPR’s representative ran it up the legal flagpole and came back with a disappointing answer. In addition to other minor tweaks to the wording, their response stated, “The word ‘abortionist’ will also need to be changed to the neutral word ‘doctor.’”

Seeking to find an acceptable compromise, Sullivan (who co-directed Dinesh D’Souza’s first two documentaries) next proposed simply using the term “abortion doctor.” This is a descriptive term that is morally neutral, he reasoned. Still, NPR refused to approve Sullivan’s compromise language. It was “Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell” or bust.

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For the filmmakers, this was a deal-breaker. “Our movie isn’t about a podiatrist or a cardiologist or a proctologist,” said producer Phelim McAleer. “It’s specifically about a doctor who performs abortions.”

When asked to comment, NPR’s Senior Director of Media Relations Isabel Lara explained, “Sponsor credits that run on NPR are required to be value neutral to comply with FCC requirements and to avoid suggesting bias in NPR’s journalism.”

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