On July 27, 2013, former Democratic congresswoman Lindy Boggs died at the age of 97. She achieved a number of firsts in her career, including being the first woman to serve in Congress from Louisiana and the first woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican for Bill Clinton.
She was also known for strongly championing a number of causes. One of those causes was opposition to abortion. NPR aired four pieces after Boggs’ death that remembered her, mentioning just about every major achievement and cause of Boggs—except her commitment to fighting abortion and the resulting significant impact that stand had on her career.
Even The New York Times, known for its abortion rights advocacy, discussed the impact of Boggs’ abortion views on her career in its July 28 obituary:
Her national profile was raised in 1976 when Robert S. Strauss, the chairman of the Democratic Party, chose her to preside over the party’s 1976 national convention in Manhattan, where Jimmy Carter became the presidential nominee. In 1984 she was often mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate, but she was ultimately passed over by the presidential nominee, former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, in favor of Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro. Mrs. Boggs believed that her strong stand against abortion had hurt her chances.
Not so for NPR (whose longtime reporter Cokie Roberts is the daughter of Lindy Boggs).
In its four remembrances of Boggs, four separate NPR hosts combined mentioned just about every instance of Boggs being first in her career, but skipped an important one that nearly happened, were it not for her abortion stance, as the Times noted: she could have been the first woman on a major presidential ticket (instead of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984). Another instance where Boggs’ outspoken views on abortion figured prominently into her career was her appointment as US Ambassador to the Vatican, given that by 1997 very few Democrats of stature publicly opposed abortion. Despite all of that, NPR decided to skip entirely her abortion opposition (tellingly, not a single piece out of 30 on NPR from 1992 to the present mentioned her abortion views).
If there’s anything sacrosanct at NPR News, it’s a firm commitment to bolstering the case for abortion rights and caricaturing abortion opponents as uninformed zealots. A smart, accomplished, widely well-regarded Democratic woman doesn’t fit the mold of NPR’s stereotypical abortion opponent.
The Washington Post had the same problem on its front-page obituary, wrote Marc Thiessen.