NPR's Totenberg Excuses Herself On Air for Using Term 'Christmas Party'

Dec. 9, 2010: The National Christmas Tree is shown at the Ellipse across from the White House in Washington.

Dec. 9, 2010: The National Christmas Tree is shown at the Ellipse across from the White House in Washington.  (AP)

Eggnog tasting. Red-and-green theme party. Holiday get-together. 

Perhaps these would be acceptable terms. But "Christmas Party"? Put it on the naughty list. 

NPR's Nina Totenberg, during an on-air discussion over the weekend, asked her fellow panelists to "forgive the expression" when she used the word "Christmas" to describe a party she had recently attended. 

The peculiar remark came as Totenberg was making a point about the budget. 

"I want to say one thing about the budget that didn't get passed, the omnibus bill. You know, we talk a lot about -- we just passed this huge tax cut in part because business said, you know, we have to plan, we have to know what kind of tax cuts we have. Well, these agencies, including the Defense Department, don't know how much money they've got and for what," she said. "And I was at -- forgive the expression -- a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually (were) really worried about this." 

But was Totenberg knocking Christmas or knocking the Justice Department? She told The Washington Post her remark was actually aimed at achieving the latter. She said the Justice Department threw a "holiday" party and Totenberg claimed she was restoring its proper title. 

"I was tweaking the Department of Justice. It was a touch of irony at the expense of the Justice Department, not at the expense of Christmas," she said, in an interview later confirmed by NPR.  

The Justice Department did not return a request for confirmation about the type of party thrown.

Totenberg, the legal affairs correspondent for NPR, was participating in a roundtable on "Inside Washington," a show produced by ABC's Washington affiliate and distributed to PBS stations. Sunday's airing of the show did not include the discussion in question. But a representative with the Media Research Center, which originally posted the clip online, said the version of the show which aired Friday on PBS' Washington affiliate WETA included the uncut section.