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. Voice of Reason

    It is self-serving and dishonest to lie, cheat and decieve to get someone to say something incriminating on a hidden camera. If that is what these guys stand for – at least it's out in the open. Also – arent there privacy concerns if the guy didnt know he was being recorded? You cant go making a tape of somoene with a secret camera and then broadcast it to the world (That's why those customer service calls tell you, this call may be recorded... ).

    They've taken 'Gotcha journalism' to a whole new level of shamelessness. I wonder how much of the interview is actually aired, compared to what they actually taped? They'll cut out the context (they're not interested in truth), and only show what they want you to hear.

    James O'Keefe – you make my stomach turn.

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  2. charlie J

    Wow! Who would have thought NPR Execs. thought the Tea party were racist.

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. Mike

    That story was not news. It was a video that was edited out of context to show a tiny bit of disgust with the tea party. Nothing damning and nothing worthy of the word "scandal". CNN, shame on you for thinking this was breaking news. Also, if you want to know who'd be presenting "news" if NPR was shut down, it would probably be that bunch of clowns with no knowledge of a thing called a pop filter. Uneducated wanna-be journalists that splice video and audio together to make us think something bad is going on.

    March 8, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  4. jack

    When is someone going to put this creep in his appropriate place?

    March 8, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  5. kevin grimes

    If we continue to provide $400M in taxpayer money to the leftist NPR, we ought to also donate $400M to Limbaugh and his ilk. I like a lot of what NPR does, listen to it fairly often and have donated over the years. But no open minded person could look at NPR and claim them to be anything other than liberal / pro-govt control advocates. It sickens me to see tax money go to NPR.

    March 8, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. Fiona

    What shocked me about the video is not so much the opinions Schiller expressed (although I gasped at his overt "Jews run the newspapers" anti-Semitism), but how UNINTELLIGENT he is. I have to assume that he got his job through family or alumni contacts. Given his strange, elitist statement about the low percentage of educated people in the US, I'm going to bet he's Ivy league...but one of the lesser ones. Brown University? Coincidentally, I was just listening to an NPR fundraiser while I was driving home.

    March 8, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  7. Celtic-Mom

    More GOP wolves. All they do is ATTACK ... where are the ideas? Where is the love of America? I only see power-mongering.

    March 8, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  8. Michael

    I don't get what's so bad about what Ron Schiller said. So what if he said the Tea Party was comprised of gun-toting racists, it's not like he went on air to say it on the behalf of NPR's broadcasting.

    March 8, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  9. pinarello

    let me guess, the assumption here is that "wikileaks" are heros and these guys are scum?

    can't have it both ways.....

    March 8, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. Nathaniel Cayanan

    I think O'Keefe is scary. I mean, he recored what were supposed to be private amongst donors, who really were unofficial "undercover" frauds, and put it out for the public to see. What NPR did is not illegal. And it's not even a farfetched opinion, nor do I feel that it will alienate Tea Partiers anyways.

    I think it's sad when giving out an opinion, that many people share, is labeled a scandal. And O'Keefe I think has taken a big brother role, going around, trying to provoke controversial soundbites in order to fire the flames of this witch hunt against individuals who are considered liberal. O'Keefe is not officiated to conduct investigations by any official organization, and is not held accountable for not abiding by objective investigation, which he is blatantly avoiding Shame on O'Keefe and anyone who encourages this nonesense.

    March 8, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  11. Inmyopinion

    This is no different than the Democrat David Kosh phoning Wisconsin Gov. Walker pretending to be someone else.

    March 8, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  12. carolina

    That Keefe guy is an idiot. Plus, anyone can have their own opinion. Doesn't matter who they work for.Its their right. As long as it doesn't interfere with their work.

    March 8, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  13. Haley

    I hate this little brat. He always films undercover and takes things out of context. Of course this exec is going to say whatever he thought the donors wanted to hear – even if it meant saying that NPR would be better off without public funding – because he was trying to solicit a large donation. Fundraisers will say anything to help their organization. Come on! And NPR doesn't hate the Tea Party. Check out the This American Life episode about the founders.

    March 8, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  14. wwjd

    If only he could use his powers for the forces of good instead of evil.........

    March 8, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  15. Dave

    Why would he be put on leave for expressing the truth??

    March 8, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  16. Teapartyfools

    What is wrong with what the Ron said? He is absolutely right

    March 8, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  17. JoeMoe

    O'Keefe is a liar, a racist, ...oh yea he's also a criminal. His attacks on "left leaning" organizations borders on mania. His anger seems to be some misdirected inferiority complex, a sense of entitlement, and latent hatred of minorities. I do not for one minute think he was "going after" NPR because of Juan Williams.

    March 8, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  18. Nacho1

    A very young person trying to make waves to get attention even though his knowledge is so very limited..............they try to make a name before the pacifier is out of the mouth.......................

    March 8, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  19. PHinMiami

    Calling the Tea Party 'Racist' & 'Scary'? How dare he use his intelligence and tell the truth, all at the same time. BTW, he left out 'Ignorant' & 'Dangerous'.

    March 8, 2011 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Inmyopinion

    No difference in the Democrat blogger pretending to be billionaire David Kosh in a prank phone call to Wisconsin Gov. Walker to cause trouble for the governor.

    March 8, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  21. John Tighe

    NPR should fight back! They should run a series on the help that Justices Thomas & Scalia have given to Right Wing groups. The should do a series on the laws that Justice Thomas broke for the years that he didn't report his wife's income. They should do a series on the Koch brothers and how a lot of the grass roots of the Tea Party is actually astro turf that they paid for. The GOP & conservative types won't be happy until NPR is either gone, or it has become an arm of the GOP PR machine. They have nothing to lose. They need to fight back. Don't apologize for the truth!

    March 8, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. Ryan

    Why is this front page coverage? How is this any different from the GOVERNOR of Wisconsin saying he thought about PLANTING PROTESTORS TO CREATE CHAOS? This man did not hold a public office and was fired.

    If we secretly videotape anyone, you can only imagine what we would find. Did you know people have sex in private and probably do all kinds of other things that would be national scandals?

    This is right-wing tactic number 1. I would love to see how many times this guy tried to tape ACORN representatives before he finally found one that said some slightly illegal things. But we don't even have to secretly tape Republican Elected Officials to find them doing wrong. See Larry Craig, etc. Imagine if we tried to tape them!?

    March 8, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  23. Truth Dealer

    What exactly did he say that wasn't true about the teaparty ? There the republican's go again trying make news instead of reporting it ! They should have locked this Idiot up when he tried to tap the congress woman's phones ! This guy is as sleazy as they come and he needs to be locked up so he can't do anymore unethical or illegal things ! It seems that the republicans will stop at nothing to keep the public eye off how they are not focusing on what people care about ! JOBS ! JOBS ! JOBS! GOP no more of this crap, the GOP fooled people the last time with garbage like this but it won't work this time because everyone has caught on to their lies !

    March 8, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  24. hozo1

    the question is which Republican organization is back O'keefe ... btw... the tea party is racist and scary

    March 8, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  25. Mike

    He may have posed as one; he is certainly acting as one.

    March 8, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
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