Activist says he targeted NPR because of Juan Williams firing
Conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe
March 8th, 2011
06:55 PM ET
4 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. Darth Vadik, CA

    Ahhh this freak, hasn't someone given this guy a good whooping yet?

    March 8, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. M

    How comes Juan William's comments are ok and Ron Schiller's are not because he said exactly what he thinks about the Tea Party and GOP of which millions agree and think – and that sleaze bag so called filmaker thinks he is a journalist. He tried to embarass CNN femail reporter and illegally tried to get access to the phone system of Mary Landrau...this guy is an extreme right wing nut.

    March 8, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Frank

    Bravo Jmaes! Keep up the good fight!

    March 8, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  4. tony

    That's rich, coming from a fanatical, racist group like the Tea Party

    March 8, 2011 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  5. MaryAnn in VA

    I cannot understand why Mr O'Keefe is afforded so much media coverage. He is not a journalist and seems to be making a name for himself with the "Gotcha" camera and audio. I would be more impressed if he exposed both sides of an issue ... left and right. After reading about his plan with a CNN journalist , I realized that Mr O'Keefe is truly only concerned with being the next sleazy person making the political rounds.

    March 8, 2011 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  6. jim

    I'm pretty conservative and vote republican mainly due to my Christian views, but I don't see anything wrong with what he said. I think he was pretty accurate in his assumption of the Tea Party being Christian. He didn't take the check. Said that the loss of the public funding wouldn't cripple, but would hurt. He wasn't out of line in any way. Fox is conservative. Yahoo is liberal. NPR I've always felt is just soft and nice. They care about the environment which we all should as well. I don't think he was offensive in any way.

    March 8, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  7. Chirag

    He did not say one thing about the Tea Party that wasn't true.

    March 8, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  8. Kenneth

    This guy is king of the tools.

    March 8, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  9. 1fender

    I hope this IDIOT film maker scam artists keeps this up. The public was fooled the first time with ACORN, they were fooled by the Shirley Sherrod/ USDA lies too but that backfired and showed the world how they take things out of context to make them appear the exact opposite of reality and truth.

    They this criminlal fake journalist tried to tap a member of congress' phone and was caught. No investigation on those involved was really done

    They they tried to do it to Planned Parenthood and like ACORN their lies did not work. Now they are trying it to NPR and guess what, NPR proved they have integrity and would not take an offered $5 million dollar donation/bribe.

    Let these tea party fakes keep it up. The more they try this the clearer picture the public has of these fakes!

    Obama is going to be re elected by a huge margin as America begins to understand what this big business backed fake organization really stands for.

    March 8, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  10. The reality is...

    "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.

    After all, how would they be able to pay their execs the exhorbitant salaries without taxpayers' hard earned $$?

    March 8, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  11. Joe Average (but with a Master's Degree, true)

    As I do not work for NPR I can say without fear of any "sting" operation that I do find several features of the Tea Party's movement just a tad, a thimble full, racist and, also, I am a smidge scared of their self important "we surround you" sense of 'majoritarian' (as if) entitlement claiming to speak for the Republic, and their belief that they can 'school' us all as to what a Republic really is and is meant to be. Sure, cause that is the voice of the people... sure. Sure.

    And, umm, is not this O'Keefe guy the same one who tried that nasty "sex sting" sexist weird yacht set-up thing – gone wrong – on that CNN lady? Odd dude, an amoral rebel *with* a cause, I guess. But, admittedly, that is a very American kind of personality. And I do love my country!

    March 8, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  12. Mel Johnson

    "My other colleague Simon Templar...." Now wait a minute! The Saint? I'm not dismissing the possibility that there's someone actually named that, but I find it at least suggestive that O'Keefe has a rather juvenile fascination with pulp fiction detective stories.

    March 8, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  13. Rock God

    The Tea Party ARE racist and scary. They're like Orwell's Thought Police!

    March 8, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  14. Sheila

    So I guess we're no longer cool with free speech.... It's very dangerous when ideas cannot be expressed and debated. This action in many ways reaffirms this man's opinions of the tea part and the extreme right.

    March 8, 2011 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  15. Marc

    Why does the mainstream media continue to give O'Keefe, an outed liar with an agenda a voice? We know his tactics and he should probably go back to college and look for a real job. He's a hack with an agenda.

    March 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  16. TriB

    Anyone who trusts O'Keefe is a complete idiot.

    March 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  17. na

    NPR is a front org.

    March 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  18. Dan

    Can we get the unedited version before we start jumping to conclusions (again)

    March 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  19. Steve

    So let me get this straight, this is payback for NPR firing a guy for making racist remarks? So he just wants to be a racist organization without everyone calling it a racist organization?

    March 8, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. rote2rivers

    Not a dime of taxpayer money should be spent to subsidize a radio station. With social networking and instant access to world and local news and opinion, the need for a "public" radio broadcast no longer exists. Donations by those who enjoy the station should be sufficient to keep it going...if not, then let it bleed to death.

    March 8, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  21. Mike

    This kid's already been exposed as a fraud. This is just so...lame. The only people who take him seriously are the media, and then a few fools who would have never been misinformed to begin with if it wasn't for the media. Sigh, the nature of the beast....

    March 8, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. steve

    No surprise here. Just proof conservatives don't have a monopoly on fools.

    March 8, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  23. M

    Corrected – How comes Juan William's comments are ok and Ron Schiller's are not because he said exactly what he thinks about the Tea Party and GOP of which millions agree and think – and that sleaze bag so called filmaker thinks he is a journalist. He tried to embarass CNN female reporter and illegally tried to get access to the phone system of Mary Landrau...this guy is an extreme right wing nut.

    March 8, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  24. William

    The Tea Party is scary and is a haven for racists. Where's the news there?

    March 8, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  25. reveille

    It would be interesting to understand the motivation for the pleasure James O'Keefe derives from cinemanic subterfuge. Perhaps NPR could do a story on him. Actually talk to people (relatives, teachers, neighbors, friends) who knew him since childhood. Of course, those being interviewed would be fully aware they were being taped. That's the difference between NPR's brand of legitatmate journalism and O'Keefe's sensationalist muckraking.

    March 8, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
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