National Public Radio’s White House correspondent has generated controversy after he wrote a blog explaining why he did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem at a recent Mitt Romney campaign event.
Reporter Ari Shapiro wrote about his feelings on the issue on NPR’s website in a story titled, “Reporter’s Pledge-of-Allegiance Quandry Sparks Twitter Debate on Romney Trail.”
“This is always an uncomfortable moment for me,” Shapiro wrote, referring to an announcement asking people to stand for the pledge and the Star Spangled Banner. “While I sat at my laptop, most of the reporters around me stood and put their hands over their hearts. This time instead of just sitting and working, I tweeted what I was feeling.”
Shapiro tweeted that he was torn about what to do.
“I’m a rally observer, not a participant,” he wrote. “Yet most reporters around me stand for the anthem & pledge. I’m one of the few that doesn’t. Setting myself up for accusations I guess.”
Shapiro said he anticipated a “flood of vitriol” – but instead received support.
“As a qualitative researcher, I aim for respectful non-participation & try to blend into the background,” one supporter wrote.
“The whole concept has always struck me as a bit fascist, having to stand when demanded to affirm our allegiance,” tweeted another.
Shapiro’s decision drew a rebuke from the Media Research Center.
“Shapiro in my view was making an odd point as a journalist – he shouldn’t say the pledge or stand for the national anthem at campaign events because it would somehow diminish his objectivity,” said the MRC’s Noel Sheppard in a statement online.
Sheppard said those particular moments are not political – noting that we are “just Americans instead of Democrats and Republicans.”
“That’s when we all stand together as one regardless of profession or ideology,” he added.
Online readers strongly objected to Shapiro’s position.
“I believe if you can not stand for the pledge of allegiance or put you hand over your heart for the national anthem then you indeed are unpatriotic,” one reader wrote.
“He should have stood to show respect,” another reader added. “He’s an American first regardless of his political affiliation.”
It’s unclear whether Shapiro stands for the pledge or national anthem when he’s not working as a journalist. NPR did not return calls seeking the answer to that question.