Not that there's anything wrong with that

NPR is in the hot seat after censoring a movie review that named allegedly gay politicians. Cringely asks, why is it OK to call people alleged murderers, but not homosexuals?

The new documentary "Outrage" has provoked a small bit of outrage itself, after editors at NPR.org censored a review of the film, which aspires to "out" conservative politicians who are allegedly closeted gays.

Yes, that NPR. The home of Terry Gross, Click and Clack, and "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me." The cherished radio respite of croissant-munching, Volvo-driving, double-soy-mocha-latte lovers everywhere.

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It's like finding out Mr. Rogers strangled puppies or that Oprah is really a man.

Filmmaker Kirby Dick's "Outrage" aims to point out the hypocrisy of politicians who consistently vote against gay rights legislation and funding for AIDS research while secretly enjoying the forbidden fruit, so to speak. The film names several allegedly gay politicians, and so did NPR film reviewer Nathan Lee -- until his editors neutered it, removing the references to all not-solidly-confirmed-as-homosexual politicos featured in the film.

Strangely, however, the review continues to feature the mug shot of Senator Larry Craig, esteemed Republican from the great state of Idaho and the third bathroom stall on the left in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, even after excising his name from the story.

Lee asked that his byline be removed from the piece, which the editors did. He then posted a comment to the review explaining why he asked his name be removed, in which he again identifies the three politicians who got cut out. NPR sent his comment into the ether as well (but not before IndieWire captured a barely legible screenshot of it).

There is enough irony here for everyone to get a second helping. For example, here's how the edited review handles this dicey subject:

Although Outrage tries to be mindful of the right to privacy, one of Dick's main objectives is to expose the queasy reluctance of the mainstream media when it comes to investigating, reporting on or simply acknowledging the homosexuality of prominent figures who haven't declared themselves. (I'm proscribed from naming names right now, for example, by longstanding NPR policy on the subject.)

The "I'm" in that sentence isn't Lee, by the way, it's whatever editor made those changes. Queasy reluctance, anyone?

So who did Lee name? Let's see if you can guess.

According to the review, one is "the former mayor of a major U.S. city -- a Democrat whose homosexuality has long been an open secret in his metropolis."

Another is a "major swing-state governor ... with aspirations to be the 2012 Republican presidential candidate." (Thus giving new meaning to the phrase, "swing state governor.") Here's a hint: He just announced he's running for the U.S. Senate. Got it yet?

The third, of course, is that toe-tapping frequent flier who put the "ho" in Idaho.

NPR exec Dick Meyer responded to IndieWire, which broke the story earlier this week:

NPR has a long-held policy of trying to respect the privacy of public figures and of not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Unlike many politicians in DC, I believe someone's personal sexual preferences are just that -- personal. On the other hand, exposing political hypocrisy is one of the things good documentaries (and news gathering organizations like NPR) are supposed to do. Whether you consider that "compelling" depends on your perspective, I suppose.

What NPR really does is prove filmmaker Kirby Dick's point about the media. It's apparently fine to repeat allegations that someone is a criminal or even a murderer; just don't say he swings from both sides of the plate. For example: An NPR review of the docu-drama "Il Divo," about former Italian prime minister Giulo Andreotti, has no problems linking the politician to several murders, the Mafia, the Vatican, and "a notorious Masonic lodge that caters to unrepentant fascists."

Good thing nobody said Andreotti was gay.

Maybe NPR should change the name of "All Things Considered" to "All Things Considered, Unless They're Still in the Closet."

Do you care if politicians are gay? Do privacy issues trump the public's right to know, and if so, where should we draw the line? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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