Moral Low Ground

US Government

NPR Boss Resigns over Right-Wing Hidden Camera Sting

Vivian Schiller, president and chief executive officer at National Public Radio (NPR), resigned yesterday after an undercover video showed one of her top executives calling Tea Party members racists and saying that NPR would be better off without taxpayer money. Schiller’s resignation comes at a troubled time for NPR, with conservative lawmakers trying to end public funding of the organization, and with controversy over last year’s firing of longtime on-air personality Juan Williams over politically incorrect comments about Muslims still lingering.

The undercover video was produced by right-wing activist James O’Keefe, who gained notoriety for other hidden camera sting operations including one in which some Planned Parenthood employees indicated they would accept money from an openly racist donor for the purpose of aborting black babies and another in which he and a colleague posed as a pimp and prostitute and obtained advice from ACORN employees on tax evasion, child prostitution and human trafficking. O’Keefe’s ACORN sting resulted in the termination of public funding of the community organizing group.

O’Keefe’s video shows two activists posing as members of a fake Muslim group at a lunch meeting with NPR executive Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian) in which the activists offer a $5 million donation to the network. They also discuss the Tea Party, the pro-Israel bias in the media and anti-intellectualism.

“The current Republican party is not really the Republican party,” Schiller says in the video. “It’s been hijacked by this group that is… not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic. They believe in sort of white, Middle America, gun-toting… it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

When one of the two “Muslims” opined that “Jews do kind of control the media or, I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interests in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel,” Schiller nods his head in agreement.

Nothing Schiller said or agreed with is particularly shocking or even untrue. His comments were even more understandable considering the massive donation he believed NPR was receiving from the two Muslims.

Still, NPR has long been under fire from conservative politicians who want to cut off public funding to the network, which they accuse of having a left-wing bias. The budget bill passed by the House last month ends taxpayer funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which in turn helps fund NPR programs. Still, only about 2% of NPR’s revenue comes from the federal government, something Ron Schiller alludes to in the video. “It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding,” he said, adding that freeing NPR from government money would allow the organization  greater independence.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) seized upon Schiller’s comment, saying NPR has “finally admitted that they do not need taxpayer dollars to survive.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration opposes the elimination of taxpayer funding for NPR and the CPB. “There remains a need to support public broadcasting and NPR,” he said.




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