NPR's Fresh Air Drops the Ball on Domestic Violence

I love listening to NPR, it’s on almost all day in my kitchen and I usually have it turned up to max volume so I can continue listening from where ever I am in my apartment. In addition to their intelligent, thoughtful programing, I find that their ideological platform aligns with my own and I usually find little to complain about. Until today.

On Fresh Air, usually hosted by Terry Gross, today’s feature was an interview conducted by Dave Davies with Ben Bradlee Jr.; Bradlee had recently penned a biography about Ted Williams. At one point, Davies addressed a question about allegations of domestic violence made by Williams’ wives. I knew that this was going to be a very interesting response.

First, Bradlee was quick to dismiss the “allegations.” When confronted by Davies to clarify, Bradlee was forced to lend more weight to the “allegations” stating that there was a situation in which Williams’ wife “fell” down the stairs during a “scuffle” with Williams, she was pregnant at the time. Bradlee was quick to equivocate, stating that to be “in the Williams’ orbit” one accepted that violence would be a part of their lives based upon Williams’ highly volatile nature.

Davies allowed the discussion to end there. I was aghast.

Bradlee unquestioningly blamed the victim, stating in essence, that if you wanted to hang with Williams you needed to be willing to take a punch. Davies did not choose to ask Bradlee to clarify.

While I recognize that we have a long way to go in terms of responsible discussion about domestic violence, I was surprised that a program affiliated with NPR failed to point out that this was a dangerous message to send their listeners. The information about intimate partner violence is readily available, it wouldn’t be hard to call up some facts and figures. As we advocates know, intimate partner violence increases when a woman is pregnant and that murder is the number one cause of death for pregnant women.

As was made clear in the Bradlee interview, hero worship makes people willing to overlook crucial aspects of a person’s legacy. This apologist position is a dangerous message to send and importantly it is one that should be addressed. Davies missed a brilliant opportunity to talk about how society is willing to white-wash history and pretend that “these things” just don’t happen, but it’s not too late.

I’m asking my readers to listen to the program and draw their own conclusion, should you feel that this situation warrants further comment send Fresh Air a message asking them to address Bradlee’s statements.

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