Activist says he targeted NPR because of Juan Williams firing
Conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe
March 8th, 2011
06:55 PM ET
3 years ago

Activist says he targeted NPR because of Juan Williams firing

(CNN) – UPDATE: National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday, according to the organization's website. This comes the day after tape was released of an NPR senior executive slamming the tea party and saying NPR would be better off without federal funding.

The conservative activist responsible for producing an undercover video showing a National Public Radio senior executive slamming the Tea Party as "racist" and "scary" is speaking out about why he went after the organization.

Late Tuesday evening, the executive in question, Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ron Schiller, issued an apology and said that his already-announced resignation would be effective immediately, instead of in May as planned. Schiller had announced last week that he was leaving NPR for a job with the Aspen Institute.

Filmmaker James O'Keefe said the idea for the sting stemmed from an incident in October when NPR fired analyst Juan Williams after he said he got scared when people wore Muslim garb on airplanes.

"My colleague Shaughn Adeleye who posed as one of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood was pretty offended with what happened with Juan Williams and he suggested looking into NPR after that incident back in the fall," O'Keefe said to CNN Correspondent Brian Todd on Tuesday.

"My other colleague Simon Templar came up with the idea to have a Muslim angle since Juan Williams was fired due to his comments. So we decided to see if there was a greater truth or hidden truth amongst these reporters and journalists and executives."

Juan Williams has since been hired full-time by Fox News.

O'Keefe gained notoriety for posing as a pimp and secretly taping damaging conversations with employees at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN). He was also involved in a failed plot to embarrass a CNN correspondent on hidden cameras.

Schiller and another NPR executive are shown on the video having lunch with potential NPR donors, who were really working for O'Keefe undercover. In the video, they pose as representatives of a Muslim organization that is considering making a $5 million donation to NPR.

Late Tuesday evening, Schiller issued an apology through NPR.

"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs," Schiller said in a statement. "I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6th, to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today."

Earlier, an NPR spokeswoman condemned Schiller's remarks.

"The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed," said NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm. "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."

Rehm also decried Schiller's statement that NPR would be "better off without federal funding," in the statement – her second released since reports of the undercover video surfaced.

"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," Rehm said.

– CNN's Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

soundoff (192 Responses)
  1. Raul

    The Tea Party ARE a bunch of racist and bigots! What's the problem with telling the TRUTH!!!

    March 8, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  2. Able Baker

    James O'Keefe is a coward.

    March 8, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  3. Adolph Oliverbush

    Another criminal looking for fame by setting people up.

    March 8, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. MC

    Good job CNN, give this criminal hack MORE attention.

    March 8, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. Kelly

    I guess I'm not understanding. The NPR exec told the truth about the tea party and that's news?

    March 8, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  6. suteki777

    The tea party does certainly have a sizable portion of scary racists so I don't see the problem with that particular part of this piece.

    March 8, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. Christopher P. Vaughan

    and who cares about his agenda... those reasons why
    James O'Keefe while successful in his "sting" operations thus far
    could have opened a can of worms here

    i am sure that some liberals may use the very same tactics against
    conservative organizations... in the end, it all equals out
    CVaughan

    March 8, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  8. Tim

    In a lunch meeting is one thing. On air is another. Juan Williams said his comments on-air.

    March 8, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  9. Tom

    Give the right wing the power they seek and guys like O'Keefe will head up the FBI, CIA, Dept. of Interior, IRS. Nobody will trust anybody because you just won't know who anybody really is.

    March 8, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  10. Bob

    I wonder how O'Queef edited the video and what he cut out THIS time...

    Welcome to the era of "Gotcha Journalerism" – if the Republicunts can't find a scandal they'll just make one up out of whole cloth!

    March 8, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  11. Greg Gilbert

    Government funded TV/radio has too much risk of eventual misuse as has been shown internatio­nally. It also prevents a private sector that would be more creative/a­rtistic "free" in its ideas and talk. Big Bird needs to evolve!

    March 8, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. David Blake

    Question – Have ANY of the tea party activist denounced their members for blaming the brown people for the problems the US is going through right now. How many Brown people work on Wall Street?

    March 8, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  13. midogs2

    Are the media intentionally instigating hostilities between between the two primary political agendas? Could this be the reason why the left keeps going way left and the right righter? We are sisters/brothers in this great nation after all!

    March 8, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  14. LJ

    okeffe's got a bright career in news fabrication and punk-ing innocent people. Fox should hire him. They love those gimmicks.

    March 8, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  15. Mark

    Why do you given this proven liar a forum? Are you competing with Fox? Why don't you do a little investigating about this "tools" methods for obtaining his reports?

    March 8, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  16. Over Tea Pee'd

    Who cares what this CRIMINAL says or does, he is a CRIMINAL, a SCAM ARTIST and a LIAR. ZERO credibility just like the Tea Party.

    March 8, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  17. David Blake

    I know – Take NPR Public – re-name it the Anti-Fox News station and lets hear some real truth!

    March 8, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  18. JM

    So....exactly _what_ did the little snot "expose" here? I don't see the problem with calling the tea party what it (very unabashedly) is.

    March 8, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  19. mark

    The Tea Party IS RACIST and is very scary to me. It is scary in the same way that a majority of voters in this country that reelected George W. Bush is scary.

    March 8, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  20. BB

    Intriguing that it took a trained political operative, ala Watergate, to expose one person's opinions about one activist group. If similar practices were used to drill down at other news corporations, I wonder what they would find. Oh, wait, nobody has to do that. It's called Talk Radio. My bad.

    March 8, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  21. John

    He went after NPR, but the money was repeatedly refused and no one in the news division was involved. So the freely given personal opinion is a news story? Why isn't the title of this article, "NPR refuses conservative bribe money?" Why doesn't the article immediately inform the reader that the money was refused following the mention of $5 million? "Which was repeatedly refused," is a factual and pretty important bit of information to be included in that sentence. Kevin Litpak, you are doing a poor job. Or you are doing exactly what you have been instructed to do, be a bit like Fox so you don't get dumped on like MSNBC.

    March 8, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  22. Kevin

    Who cares why he did it? This whole story's a complete non-starter. Some guy at NPR who has nothing to do with journalism got caught saying what the average voter feels about the Tea Party. Big Whoop.

    March 8, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  23. jack

    yeah, but we've known for two years that the tea party are a bunch of racists, so what's the fuss about?

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  24. glassguyvt

    So, he spoke the truth, the tea part is racist and scary, no news there.

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  25. DB

    Do any of the surveys out there indicating that the members of the Tea Party actually DO harbor xenophobic and racist tendencies (not outright racism) matter at all?

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
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