Nina Totenberg On Controversial Jesse Helms Comments: “It Was A Stupid Remark”


Nina Totenberg is speaking out about her controversial Jesse Helms remarks from 15 years ago. NPR’s legal correspondent has come under some heavy Fox News fire following Juan Williams dismissal for remarks she made on a television show called Inside Washington in 1995 about then-Senator Jesse Helms: “I think he ought to be worried about what’s going on in the good Lord’s mind, because if there’s retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”

Needless to say, despite the fact these remarks were made 15 years ago, many people wanted to know how come Totenberg had managed to keep her job if NPR rules dictated that Williams lose his. Here’s what Totenberg told NPR media reporter David Folkenflik:

When I spoke with her earlier today, Totenberg called her comments “dumb” and read from letters she had sent over the years saying so in reply to complaints about those remarks.

“It taught me a lesson about being careful,” Totenberg said. “I haven’t said anything that stupid on the air in 15 years.”
Totenberg now says she was attempting to underscore the point that Helms’ objection to federal funding for AIDS testing could lead the disease to spread widely among heterosexuals population and babies born to women who had HIV. But Totenberg concedes her comments represented a harsh and overly personalized way to make her point.

She goes on to conclude “It was a stupid remark. I’ll pay for it for the rest of my life.” Presumably a different kind of “pay” than the $2million contract Juan Williams just received from Fox.

Have a tip we should know?

Filed Under: