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At Last! Stephen Colbert Surrenders NPR's Shiny Medal Of Fear

NPR's Medal Of Fear

NPR's Medal Of Fear, awarded by Stephen Colbert, has finally come home. It shows a man running with scissors -- TWO pairs of scissors! -- and the inscription at the bottom says, "CAVE NE CADMIUM SIT," meaning, "Warning: cadmium may be present." Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mito Habe-Evans/NPR

It came down to this: "I work at NPR in Washington, D.C. I want the medal."

When NPR Digital producer Melisa Goh went to a recent taping of The Colbert Report while in New York on vacation, she may not have realized she was on a very important mission. But then, during the two-hour wait outside the building before the show, a troubling situation preoccupied her: "I spent my two hours thinking about a certain 7-year-old girl who had something that didn’t belong to her," Mel says.

As you may recall, Colbert awarded NPR a Medal Of Fear in absentia during the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear on October 30. (As we mentioned at the time, NPR received the medal for applying its policy on political rallies to the RTRSA/OF.) And in that absentia, as it were, Colbert gave away what was supposed to be our medal to that 7-year-old girl.

NPR's Medal Of Fear, outside the NPR building

Sometimes, we take the Medal for a walk. Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mito Habe-Evans/NPR

So back to New York: Mel found herself at the pre-show Q&A, in which members of the audience get to ask Colbert questions. When called on, Mel felt it was her duty to persuade Colbert to turn over the Medal Of Fear that was rightfully ours.

So when her moment came, Mel straightforwardly made her request: "I work at NPR in Washington, D.C. I want the medal."

Colbert told her that he did indeed have our loot on hand. Better yet, he was willing to award it to Mel as our representative. So after a break while the medal was apparently retrieved from its deeply buried, highly secure vault, she took the stairs down to the stage. She was thinking the entire time, she says, of the lady on The Price Is Right who lost her tube top while running toward Bob Barker, and was therefore further thinking, "Don't trip, and don't lose your tube top," despite not even wearing a tube top.

NPR's Medal Of Fear alongside NPR's Peabody Award

Sometimes, the Medal just hangs around in the lobby. Mito Habe-Evans/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mito Habe-Evans/NPR

Once she was face to face with the man himself, as Mel remembers it, Colbert said something along the lines of, "For fear that attending my rally would make your organization seem biased — and just a little bit liberal — I award you this Medal of Fear." And he put it around her neck.

As Mel describes it: "The medal itself is really metal. It’s even heavy. On it, a naked man runs with scissors and the phrase 'Warning: Cadmium May Be Present' is embossed in Latin below. I even had Kee Malesky in the library fact-check the translation." Mel says she prizes the medal, as she was working at the office a few blocks away from the rally on the day the honor was bestowed. "I'm proud of it," she says. "And I'm even willing to loan it to NPR for display in the lobby."

So now we have it. And we're not giving it back to Mr. Stephen Colbert or any 7-year-old girl, either. Even if it does contain cadmium.



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