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NPR relied on 'ever-present muse' Adam Schiff during Russiagate to 'damage' Trump, editor says

Rep. Adam Schiff did at least 32 interviews with NPR about Russiagate, with one editor saying his talking points became the "drumbeat" of NPR news reports.

NPR interviewed Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for its Russiagate coverage dozens of times between 2016 and 2019, so much so that he was characterized as the outlet's "ever-present muse" by one of its own editors.

In a bombshell essay published in The Free Press, veteran NPR senior business editor Uri Berliner said the 2016 election of Donald Trump quickly encouraged NPR journalists to find ways to "damage or topple" the presidency of Donald Trump, saying that the narrative that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the White House "became the catnip that drove reporting" and that "we hitched our wagon to Trump’s most visible antagonist, Representative Adam Schiff." 

"Schiff, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, became NPR’s guiding hand, its ever-present muse," Berliner wrote. "By my count, NPR hosts interviewed Schiff 25 times about Trump and Russia. During many of those conversations, Schiff alluded to purported evidence of collusion. The Schiff talking points became the drumbeat of NPR news reports."

Berliner actually undercounted the number of interviews NPR did with Schiff specifically about Russia between 2016 and 2019. A Fox News Digital review found at least 32 interviews Schiff gave to the taxpayer-backed outlet between December 11, 2016 and July 24, 2019, all involving some aspect of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the sprawling investigation into whether the Trump campaign illicitly coordinated with it.

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Berliner pointed out that after Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report that found there was no evidence behind Schiff's collusion claims, "NPR’s coverage was notably sparse" and "Russiagate quietly faded from our programming." 

A review of Schiff's appearances on NPR during the Trump administration found such headlines as, "Rep. Adam Schiff On The Latest In The Russia Investigation," "Rep. Schiff On Russia Influence Investigation," "Rep. Adam Schiff On Trump's Wiretapping Claims And Russia," "Rep. Adam Schiff On Donald Trump Jr. And Russia," "Rep. Adam Schiff Weighs In On Russian Hacking Evidence," "Rep. Adam Schiff On Trump, Comey And Russia," "House Intel Chairman Schiff Vows To Get Trump Jr. Phone Records — And More," "Schiff On The Latest Developments In The Russia Probe" and "House Intel Committee's Adam Schiff On Russia Developments."

In 2017, he did at least 16 separate interviews with NPR on the subject. In 2018, he did eight, and he did another seven in 2017, according to Fox's review. He also did one in December 2016, shortly after Trump's election.

In the interviews, Schiff repeatedly pushed the narrative that there was evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia while commenting on the various newsmaking moments that dotted the investigation, such as the indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the Devin Nunes memo that cast aspersions on the investigation's origins, the revealed meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, and Mueller's final report and testimony before Congress, which ultimately found no evidence of a conspiracy.

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"We have seen ample evidence of collusion very much in the public eye," Schiff told NPR in 2019 as the Mueller investigation wrapped up. "Whether that evidence amounts to proof beyond reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy I've always said will be up to Bob Mueller. He may have determined that it doesn't need proof beyond reasonable doubt in terms of a crime. But nonetheless the evidence of that collusion, the evidence of the relationship between the Trump campaign and the president and Russia needs to be exposed."

Here are the links to his NPR appearances that Fox News Digital found.

2016: (1)

12/11/16 

2017: (16)

1/3/17, 1/6/17, 1/26/17, 3/3/17, 3/6/17, 3/9/17, 3/15/17, 3/23/17 3/28/17, 5/4/17, 5/17/17, 6/21/17, 7/14/17, 7/25/17, 9/8/17, 10/30/17

2018: (8)

1/3/18, 2/2/18, 2/16/18, 2/19/18, 4/20/18, 8/21/18, 11/7/18, 12/7/18

2019: (7)

1/17/19, 2/1/19, 3/22/19, 4/18/19, 5/30/19, 6/12/19, 7/24/19

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Berliner was withering over NPR's handling of the Russia story, saying the lack of follow-through after the collusion narrative went bust was an indictment of NPR's culture. 

"It is one thing to swing and miss on a major story. Unfortunately, it happens. You follow the wrong leads, you get misled by sources you trusted, you’re emotionally invested in a narrative, and bits of circumstantial evidence never add up. It’s bad to blow a big story," Berliner wrote. "What’s worse is to pretend it never happened, to move on with no mea culpas, no self-reflection. Especially when you expect high standards of transparency from public figures and institutions, but don’t practice those standards yourself. That’s what shatters trust and engenders cynicism about the media."

Berliner was also critical of NPR's coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop affair, the COVID-19 lab leak theory, and the aftermath of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

NPR is far from the only legacy news organization to have turned to Schiff, who was formally censured by Republicans in Congress last year for "misleading the American public" during Russiagate. Congressional Democrats dismissed the censure as politically motivated and Schiff said he wore the rebuke as a badge of honor.

The Democratic lawmaker was invited regularly on MSNBC and CNN, cable networks that went wall-to-wall with the Russia collusion narrative, and made numerous appearances on ABC, CBS and NBC as the Mueller probe unfolded. He repeatedly said evidence was in "plain sight" of collusion.

Schiff is now running for the U.S. Senate in California and is heavily favored to win; the blue state hasn't elected a Republican U.S. senator since 1988. 

NPR and Schiff's office didn't respond to requests for comment. NPR previously referred Fox News Digital to an internal memo pushing back against Berliner's conclusions and defending its journalism and integrity.

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