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NPR boss once called the First Amendment a 'challenge' and 'reverence for the truth' a distraction

New resurfaced videos of NPR CEO Katherine Maher feature her calling the First Amendment a "challenge" and "reverence for the truth" a distraction.

Controversial videos of Katherine Maher discussing her views on "the truth" and the First Amendment have resurfaced as the new NPR CEO continues to face online backlash and scrutiny.

At the Atlantic Council's 360/Open Summit in June 2021, Maher, then the CEO of Wikimedia which oversees Wikipedia, discussed efforts to push back against disinformation and the "challenge" of the First Amendment. She took over at NPR last month.

"The number one challenge here that we see is, of course, the First Amendment in the United States. [It] is a fairly robust protection of rights and that is a protection of rights both for platforms, which I actually think is very important that platforms have those rights to be able to regulate what kind of content they want on their sites," Maher said.

She added, "But it also means that it is a little bit tricky to really address some of the real challenges of where does bad information come from, and sort of the influence peddlers who have made a real market economy around it." 


She remarked how Wikipedia took an "active approach to disinformation and misinformation" in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 election, though she noted that Wikipedia publishers are "primarily men" with "significant gaps" of knowledge in content about women and marginalized groups. 

Another resurfaced video from an August 2021 TED Talk featured Maher discussing how Wikipedia teaches "balancing truth and beliefs." She said trust in the website had increased during a time when public trust in institutions had collapsed. She argued Wikipedia's model worked well, especially in debates over politics or religion. 

"In our normal lives, these contentious conversations tend to erupt over a disagreement about what the truth actually is. But the people who write these [Wikipedia] articles, they're not focused on the truth. They're focused on something else, which is the best of what we can know right now," Maher said.

"That perhaps, for our most tricky disagreements, seeking the truth and seeking to convince others of the truth might not be the right place to start. In fact, our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that's getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done," she continued. 

Maher insisted that her view doesn't mean the truth "doesn't exist" or "isn't important" but emphasized the existence of "many different truths."

"And so, in the spirit of that, I'm certain that the truth exists for you and probably for the person sitting next to you. But this may not be the same truth. This is because the truth of the matter is very often, for many people, what happens when we merge facts about the world with our beliefs about the world. So we all have different truths," she said.


NPR defended Maher against "online actors with explicit agendas" on Wednesday as her old social media posts continue to go viral for exposing her personal left-wing ideology. 

In a 2020 post, Maher is seen donning a Biden for President hat and saying it was the "best part" of her "get out the vote" efforts. In another post, she wrote that while "looting is counterproductive," it is "hard to be mad about protests not prioritizing the private property of a system of oppression founded on treating people's ancestors as private property."

Maher's political views came out after longtime NPR editor Uri Berliner published a bombshell report blowing the whistle on liberal bias at the organization. After he received a 5-day suspension, Berliner announced his resignation on Wednesday. 

"I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years. I don’t support calls to defund NPR. I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism. But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cited in my Free Press essay," Berliner wrote in a statement, referring to Maher. 


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