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. Janet Paraschak

    I love PBS.. I do not like the Tea Baggers.

    March 8, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. obama retoric

    hurah, get rid of NPR, black them out, they are racist pigs who eat ribs and taters in Vale, guess who I'm talking about. Time for all them to go. Thanks for the insite into the NPR.

    March 8, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. justpaul

    I've got no problem with what the guy said, only with the fact that it's far from true. The ease with which people throw around accusations like "racist" these days is appalling. One can, and many do, oppose the Obama Administration on specific issues without it being a racial issue. No one ever accused all those black people who voted against Bush as doing so because they were racists. Why the easy double standard from the supposedly enlightened Left? Every protest in this country attracts some hard-core types with very poorly thought out rationales for their feelings. To paint the entire crowd based on the sentiments of the few is unfair to everyone. And if three racist morons at a Tea Party event proves the event is racist, then this guy's comments do prove that NPR is run by a bunch of reactionary liberal imbeciles, whether he works in the news department or not.

    March 8, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Dean

    Defund NPR. Their programming sucks, anyway.

    March 8, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. anthony

    WHATdid Schiller do or say that was wrong? I see nothing but truth in his words. Not only that, he DOES have the right to freedom of speech. Looks like Okeefe trolled down the wrong hole and came up with a truth that back fired. The rightwing nuts can use freedom of speech when its convenient to their causes, but if anyone else voices their opinion, then its negative? give me a break. Schiller said it like it was, and im glad SOMEONE had the balls to call the TeaParty what they are.

    Schiller is WINNING.

    March 8, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. Guy

    It speaks to the bias of NPR. Sure it's freedom of speech, and these aren't news guys, but clearly their staff is not made up of middle of the road people. These is the head of fund raising and the head of the foundation who are clearly far left and don't mind talking about it to donors. That's how you get to Soros funding the hiring of their local reporters and NPR saying they didn't think it was a problem.

    March 8, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Eric

    Birtherism is akin to racism.

    March 8, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Trace

    I think he hit it right in the head!!!! And I agree, what did he do wrong????

    March 8, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. James klimaski

    It sounds like the comment about Federal Funding was edited, but as for Mr. Schiller's personal opinion of the Tea Party, from what I've seen circulated by them about the President and the first Lady, he is pretty much on the mark. The Tea Party may publicly disavow any racist attitudes of its members, but privately it is a different story. It is not by accident there are very few minorities in the Tea Party movement. They remind me of my white neighbors when I was growing up, picketting the house of a black family that attempted to move into the neighborhood. It was such an ugly incident that sticks in my mind so many years later.

    March 8, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. MJ

    There is nothing "racist" or "scary" about the Tea Party. Time to cut the funds. Obama is so entwined with the Unions that he can not possibly get estranged from them. He was a Community Organizer who has brought his philosophy into this Presidency and has failed. Constantly refusing to call the attacks on Americans as a "terrorist attack" is more than scary.

    March 8, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Chaos

    He speaks accurately of the Teabagging gullible idiots.

    March 8, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. Hangar 13

    The Tea party is all about fiscal responsibility, plain and simple. So it's no wonder NPR execs rail about it, the movement is against everything they stand for. Funny, but we don't hear much about exhorbitant gas prices, they were a direct result of Bush the Devil being in bed with Big Oil, right? It's getting difficult to use that excuse anymore, so liberals would rather just ignore it and hope it goes away. The Tea Party and fiscal conservatives and thinking Americans are NOT going away, and that's something the far left and NPR are going to have to deal with.

    March 8, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. tony

    Tea party employs crooks to mix secret illegal recordings into fake movies to discredit honest Americans. So what's new?

    March 8, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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."
    -------------------------------------------------–
    Either you decry ALL statements made during the fake interview or you embrace ALL statements made. You cannot pick and choose those that are benefitting to you and that would further your cause. So which will it be? The Teatard Movement is scarily racist, AND NPR should not be government funded. ..? That's the one I'd go with.

    March 8, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. Mattski

    Schiller dumps all groups with "Tea Party" in their name together. Good thing he's not in the news department since he doesn't know the difference between the Tea Party Partiots and the Tea Party Express. What he's really doing is labelling all racists as Tea Party supporters.

    March 8, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Personally, Schiller was RIGHT.

    March 8, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  17. Jay

    Then NPR and Obama should'nt get tax money from Gun-toting bible carrying middle americans

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

    O'Keefe high moral standards, actually are on the same level with whale manure, intolerant, bigot

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

    CNN you are not being honest ....he is an EX NPR exec. And the tea party is racist.

    March 8, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. ex-gop

    Schiller is perhaps correct about the Tea Party, but I confess that I am biased toward NPR and PBS, this ex-republican that I was.! GOPers today seem to hate more than sound bites that can't be spun and twisted. Both NPR and PBS are the most balanced media outfit on the planet, not to mention the most intelligent news source, hands down. If they weren't around I wouldn't know what to believe any more.

    I say prosecute FOX News under the RICO act for fraudulent media activity – posing as an authoritative news source – selling all its assets and transferring those assets to NPR and PBS. Sounds like the thing to do!

    March 8, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. maine liberal

    The late Wiliiam F Buckley would pleased to be called a liberal

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

    Not sure where they get the idea that Mr. Schiller said that NPR doesn't need federal funding...in fact he freely admitted that without government subsidies "a lot of stations would go dark". It was his personal opinion that NPR would be better off without having to rely on federal funding as it would give them more latitude to tell the truth rather than make everyone happy and that's an opinion that I can heartily agree with!

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

    Schiller's rant sounds exactly like Obama's San Francisco gun-toting bible carrying rant

    March 8, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    Whoody-doo. An employee did and said some fairly thoughtless things, exhibiting unprofessional behavior, misrepresenting the company's views even though not authorized to speak on behalf of the company on those subjects and showing a lack of tact. Suprise...that sometimes happens, and people lose heir jobs for it. It's just too bad that he's going to lose his job for speaking the truth, but I suppose we can chalk that up to "he should've known better."

    What I want to know is whether this vioalted the terms of O'Keefe's parole, whether and to what extent the video is edited AND where Schiller ends up employed when he leaves....after all, he said he was leaving a week ago. Something smells very funny here...waaaay too convenient.

    March 8, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. Max

    Agreed, I see worse on my facebook feed most days. I'm more disappointed in NPR for completly abandoning a guy who didn't know he was on camera and was likely baited into making some of these statements.

    March 8, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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