Outgoing NPR executive Ron Schiller slams Republicans and the tea party movement and suggests that NPR would be better off without any federal funding in a hidden-camera video released Tuesday by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe.
Schiller, president of the NPR Foundation and a senior vice president for development until just last week, appears on the tape at Georgetown’s Café Milano with NPR director of institutional giving Betsy Liley and two men–Shaughn Adeleye and Simon Templar–posing as executives from a fake Islamic organization considering a $5 million donation to the network. (See update: Schiller, expected to depart in May, is now on administrative leave).
The Daily Caller posted the 11-minute video Tuesday, as did O’Keefe’s Project Veritas—a site that also includes hidden-camera investigations of other conservative targets, including teacher’s unions and ACORN. (A full two-hour version is available here).
In the video, Schiller said that the current Republican Party has been “hijacked” by a group that’s “not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic” and suggests the tea party movement is comprised of some “seriously racist, racist people.” You can watch the footage below:
Schiller said that he’s proud of NPR’s firing of Juan Williams for expressing fear of flying with people in “Muslim garb,” because it showed that “NPR stood for is a non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news.” (Just yesterday, NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller–no relation–talked publicly about how the network “badly” handled the Williams situation).
Also, Ron Schiller doesn’t appear to interject when the two men make outlandish comments about Jews controlling the media and laughs when they jokingly refer to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”
“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for,” said NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm in a statement. “Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”
On the set-up, Rehm said: “The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.”
O’Keefe did not immediately respond to a request for comment about NPR’s statement on refusing the check.
The conservative filmmaker first drew media attention for his undercover “pimp and prostitute” videos in Sept. 2009. But O’Keefe has also attracted criticism over how the ACORN videos were edited. For instance, the edited videos suggest that O’Keefe pretended to be a young woman’s “pimp” inside and wore the outlandish costume he donned outside ACORN’s offices in the videos (and on Fox News after their release). However, O’Keefe actually told ACORN staffers he was the “prostitute’s” boyfriend or friend inside and didn’t wear the pimp garb.
Since then, O’Keefe has been involved in other headline-grabbing stunts, including entering the Louisiana office of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu under false pretenses and allegedly trying to seduce a CNN correspondent on camera.
Once again, O’Keefe targeted an issue near and dear to conservatives, who have long talked of “defunding” NPR, arguing that federal dollars shouldn’t go to stations they claim expresses a liberal viewpoint. Several Republican lawmakers stepped up that effort following the Williams firing.
Contrary to the perception that NPR is primarily funded by the government, the network only receives about 1 to 2 percent of its funds from federal grants. Individual NPR member stations, located around the country, rely on state and federal sources for about 10 percent of their funding.
Schiller, on tape, points out “that very little of our funding comes from the government” despite claims to the contrary. He adds that “in the long run we would be better off without federal funding.”
The video has already been making the rounds on conservative sites this morning. And even though Schiller is no longer with NPR, the video is sure to give ammunition to NPR critics who already claim the network is too liberal and doesn’t deserve federal funds.
Update: NPR put out an additional statement around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed. NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day — in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell.”
“The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole.”
“Prior to the lunch meeting presented in the edited video, Ron Schiller had informed NPR that he was resigning from his position to take a new job. His resignation was announced publicly last week, and he was expected to depart in May. While we review this situation, he has been placed on administrative leave.”