NPR exec shown slamming the Tea Party
March 8th, 2011
12:35 PM ET
3 years ago

NPR exec shown slamming the Tea Party

(CNN) - National Public Radio says it is "appalled" with a senior executive at the organization after he was caught on undercover video slamming the Tea Party movement as "racist" and "scary," and saying that NPR would be better off without federal funding.

NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm singles out Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ron Schiller in a statement: "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. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for."

The videos were produced by conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe, who 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.

There are two NPR executives in the video, identified as Schiller and Director of Institutional Giving Betsy Liley. Neither executive works in NPR's news division. They are shown 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.

Schiller, who announced last week that he is leaving NPR, makes repeated criticisms against the Tea Party, saying the group is racist.

"Tea Party people" aren't "just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic," Schiller says. "I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."

He goes on to say, "The Tea Party is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn't even call it Christian. It's this weird evangelical kind of move."

In the video, Schiller says that NPR, which is partially funded by government money, would be "better off without federal funding."

"The problem is that if we lost it now, a lot of stations would go dark," Schiller said.

Schiller's remarks come only one day after NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller (who is unrelated to Ron Schiller) told an audience at the National Press Club that federal funding for NPR was essential.

"Government funding is critical because it allows taxpayers to leverage a small investment into a very large one," she said, according to prepared remarks. "It is seed money. Station managers tell me that 10 percent plays a critical role in generating the other 90 percent that makes their broadcasts possible."

A movement to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps subsidize NPR along with the Public Broadcasting System, is making the rounds among some congressional Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to reports of Ron Schiller's comments in the undercover video.

"As we continue to identify ways to cut spending and save valuable resources, this disturbing video makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR," Cantor said.

"Not only have top public broadcasting executives finally admitted that they do not need taxpayer dollars to survive, it is also clear that without federal funds, public broadcasting stations self-admittedly would become eligible for more private dollars on top of the multi-million dollar donations these organizations already receive."

Tea Party representatives were also quick to decry Ron Schiller's remarks, using his suggestion that NPR would be better off without government money as an opportunity to call for defunding the organization.

"Mr. Schiller himself candidly admits in the video that NPR doesn't need federal funding, and welcomes the opportunity to slant their reporting without the oversight of the taxpayer," said Mark Meckler, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, in a statement. "At a time when the country is upside down by more than a trillion dollars, can we really afford to provide huge subsidies to entities that openly state that they don't need the money? Let's take his advice and pass legislation that would defund the clearly biased news organization that is out of touch with Americans across the country."

– CNN Political Producer Shannon Travis contributed to this report.

Updated 4:35 p.m.

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Filed under: James O'Keefe • Tea Party movement
soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. The Other Dale

    Hmm. Looks like O'Keefe came up empty-handed again. No money was accepted and comments made were those of individuals not involved with teh news department. Maybe O'Keefe needs to find something production to do with his life. He's certainly a failure at these pranks.

    March 8, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. vet in texas

    I really wish this undercover director would use the camera on his own party to show all the behind the scene things they say. I'll bet they could, but won't use this to purify their party and get rid of the RINO's they so vehemently despise. Not to worry, I see a tea party documentary coming out just in time for the election that will show America that, "They are what we thought they were".

    March 8, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  3. Jonathan

    I'm trying to figure out what Schiller did wrong? I guess people can't tell the truth anymore...

    March 8, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  4. Lost in Texas Forever

    Freedom of speech is hailed to great for America UNTIL somebody says something that the higher-ups don't like then the person who said it is bashed for their opinion. Personally I don't think the Tea Party movement is racist, but I DO think that there are some racist in the Tea Party and perhaps that is what Mr. Schiller should have said.

    March 8, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Frank

    If NPR doesn't want Federal funding ... I say we make their wish come true.
    CUT NPR FUNDING!

    March 8, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Zip

    America has defeated foreign enemies 250 years. Who knew that the enemy within, the Tea Party, would prove to be the greatest threat the United States has ever faced.

    March 8, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Marko

    The world continues to be backward. People get in trouble for telling the truth and they get rewarded for telling lies. Look how the republicans were rewarded for their lies in the the 2010 elections. NPR has a great news organization and is the only one left worth listening to.

    March 8, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    He is right!! They arethe far right wing nuts who don't want givernment in their lives until the issue is abortion or gay marriage or education.
    They are waaaaay past racist and a bunch of old white people still mad because mcnasty and what's her face didn't make it in 2008.
    We are turning into a fascist/communist/socialist nation when the truth angers a small percentage of the population. Those the kioch brothers bankroll and those at faux news.

    March 8, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Jay

    He sounds right on the money to me...

    March 8, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. And?????

    I don't get it. What did Schiller say about them that was insulting? Xenophobic? True. Racists? Also true. Weird fundamentalists? Okay, that's subjective. But, there are worst insults than that. O'Keefe needs a life!

    March 8, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. A

    He told the truth, so what is the problem?

    March 8, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. Erik S.

    I'm sure NPR will get it's wish to no longer have federal funding, they have an agenda as well and some obvious hate, if you don't think like them, you are against them, the death of NPR in a year or two, and with these bosses, they deserve it.

    March 8, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    Some of that is justified. However, as is often the case, one or two extremists, does not account for the whole barrel.

    The most objectionable aspect of the Tea Party, is their tendency to allow their platform to be overly influenced by right wing religious concepts, that are unacceptable, to most Americans.

    March 8, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Chris Willett

    A video produced by James O'Keefe? Now there's reliable information. He and Breitbart should get together.

    After attending a Tea Party rally and having seen footage of others, it's really tough to disagree with Schiller's comments. Many of these people believe some scary, deluded stuff. Glenn Beck's followers are convinced that Obama is an illegal immigrant Manchurian Candidate bent on initiating a Communist/Sharia takeover (whatever that means), the Christian Right is convinced that gay people wanting to get married are more dangerous than terrorists, and hordes of so-called libertarians have bought into corporate-financed propoganda on deregulation (oil spills anyone?), privatization (remember Blackwater?), climate change ("ooh, it's snowing, can't be happening!"), and tax policy ("anything but tax cuts must be socialism!"). And then there's "get your government paws off my Social Security!"

    Then there was the constant race-baiting during the campaign (the GOP-created "Barack the Magic N-gro" song, the Chaffey Community Republican Women's "Obama Food Stamps", etc.), which has now been picked up by the Tea Party people, who hold up some signs that say some pretty nasty things, many of them referencing Obama's race in a negative way. Few people from my generation (I'm 26) believe that those in disfavored minority groups are "oversensitive"; we simply recognize, having grown up with people from varied backgrounds, that America still houses an incredible number of bigots. This isn't about the conservative buzzword "white guilt"; it's about being able to place yourself in the position of another to see things from his point of view – you know, that skill known as "empathy" that Republicans bashed (without even knowing what it really means) when Obama mentioned it as a qualification for a Supreme Court justice.

    March 8, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. kyle from ohio

    What another Acorn story; the Republican organization that traps someone; and Now the whole organization is that person; please CNN; this is your fault since you do not go an do real reporting this falsehood continues; The real story here just like with Acorn and the State workers; Get rid of any organization that looks like it may help the middle or lower class of people in our country so they lost the power to know or to VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 8, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. Dale

    So another liberal leaning organization gets caught with it's pants down and all they want to do is blame the people who exposed the biased enviroment that exists at NPR. They let Schiller move on to another opportunity and ignore the other individual, Liley, who sat there without disagreeing with Schiller's comments.

    March 8, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Four and The Door

    In private or not, these comments by Ron Schiller are absolutely wrong in so many ways. Is this really how his weak little mind thinks?!?! He's got some serious problems and NPR is right to be ashamed for having this kind of guy in their management ranks.

    The Tea Party is a nationwide grass roots uproar against out of control government spending. Maybe this is why people at NPR hate them so much.

    March 8, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. John D.

    Now that these morons are about to lose their taxpayer funding it's like watching a leopard try changing the color of their spots. This is pure BS. No more federal dollars to this useless entity! The rest of the scum here are same usual low lifes always posting here and it does my heart good knowing you morons still have not a clue past your TV!!! Tea Party Forever!

    March 8, 2011 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Bobby Range

    I have to say, Schiller had it right. I can't fault a single thing he said...

    March 8, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Jay

    James O’Keefe is a convicted felon, by his own admission, currently in the 10th month of his 3 year probation. Clearly CNN's liberal bias is the reason this fact is missing from the article above (that was sarcasm BTW, Republicans).

    March 8, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. gt

    pnr is a left wing propaganda machine for the liberal wing nuts...every one knows there corrupt..cut our wasted tax dollars and save money... big bird will be just fine...

    March 8, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. The other G. W.

    BUT...He's actually correct. The Tea Party IS RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC, DANGEROUS GUN LOVING, VIOLENCE
    INCITING, UNREALISTIC RADICAL GROUP that is a menace...so much so that an Arizona Congresswoman was
    shot in the head at a public rally. When ANY Conservative Group – Tea Party blended with Palin puts "target cross hairs"
    over the faces of political leaders and an American Fundamentalist Radical is "stimulated" by that imagery and goes to a
    suburban Safeway Supermarket and opens fire...THAT IS DANGEROUS BEHAVIOUR CULTIVATED BY THE TP's,
    the SP's and their circle of lunatic friends. NPR spoke the TRUTH.

    March 8, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. geecee

    Can't figure out what Mr. Schiller said that isn't actually true. The Community for Public Broadcasting ("CPB") should not be federally funded, so that would include all NPR and PBS stations as well, I believe. Privately funding them would be best as they can then free up their belief system, which tends to slant liberal. I did notice, though, that David Koch is one of CPB's contributors! What a surpise. He will probably threaten them with pulling his funding if they don't start moving towards the conservative side. So, that could be a danger for sure. We already have Fake Noise Channel for the conservatives, we certainly don't need CPB to go that way!!

    March 8, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. And this is controversial why?

    The Tea Party *is* scary – duh! They contribute nothing to the debate, just chanting mindless slogans when what we need is an honest conversation about the country's problems & tough, bipartisan, realistic solutions as outlined in the deficit commission report (for just one example).

    The Tea Party is racist too, but if Hillary had won it would likely be more sexist than racist – they're really just opportunist haters imo, they don't even have enough courage of their convictions to be genuine racists.

    March 8, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. Q Hollis

    I am sorry. I don't see what was wrong with what was said? The Tea Party in general is not "racist," But i would say that if you are a racist you would likley be a part of the Tea Party.

    March 8, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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