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. Unit34AHunter

    Schiller's offense is that he has demogogued against Tea Partiers and in particular made a number of bigoted, broad-brush claims that are factually incorrect. People that self ID as "tea party" members cover a big chunk of the political spectrum, in the same way that people who self-ID as "progressives" can include moderate Democratic Party members of the House of Reps, like Congressman Giffords, radicals like Barbara Boxer, and extreme radicals like Al Sharpton.

    March 8, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. some guy

    The Tea Party: Not racist....but #1 with racists!

    March 8, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. bluedogboy

    The Tea Party is not racist. They just can't come to grips with an educated half-black man being President,

    March 8, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. David M

    Lost In Texas Forever said "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".

    You will find racist in every political party, from left to right. So in this case, Schiller should have kept his mouth shut.

    We should defund NPR. If they can't cut it on their own, then go out of business. We have lots of other programs in this country that could use that funding. We have kids going to bed hungry every night, towns that can't afford a new fire engine, schools that desperately need modernization or replacement, etc. The list is long, and I think NPR should not be on that list. Who benefits from NPR being on the air?

    March 8, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. blf83

    Tea Party? TheTea Party has become the party of willful ignorance, of the willingness to lie, and the absolutism of preconceived conclusions – all without thought, reason, or the need to be fair and balanced – and no, you won't find "fair" or "balanced" on Faux News.

    March 8, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  6. buzz

    I agree with the senior exec at NPR. NPR would be better without public funding.

    Anyone who says the Tea Party is racist has no concept of what it is about. Democracy is for people that can be 'self-governed' as spoken by our founding fathers. We do not desire for large government bailout programs, wellfare, health care and higher taxes. Let us take care of our own needs. A true tea partier is much more like a libertarian than it is a republican or democrate. Some GOPers have tried to take over the reigns of the "tea party" but what they represent is just a sliver of the real movement.

    March 8, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. ellid

    First, the NPR executives didn't accept the check, so O'Keefe failed once again to get his mark to take the bait.

    Second, someone needs to muzzle O'Keefe. He comes across as a nasty, spoiled little punk.

    Third, every study shows that the Tea Party is exactly what Schiller said it was: overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly conservative, and largely Christian, with a tendency to believe the most outrageous lies about the President and First Lady. There's also a strong correlation between the Tea Party and the ultra-conservative religious movement called Reconstructionism or Dominionism, which explicitly advocates replacing the American government with one based on the heretical writings of RJ Rushdoony. That includes revoking citizenship for women, instituting a legal code based on Deuteronomy and Leviticus, executing homosexuals, and enslaving or killing disobedient children and servants.

    As for NPR, they may be appalled at what Schiller said, but they'd do this country a lot of good if they'd actually publicize the links between the Chalcedon Institute, Rushdoony's think tank, and "mainstream" evangelicalism. America is much closer to theocracy than anyone will admit.

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

    The primary rebublican base and as well as this tea party movement has definitively morphed into a christian fundamentalist movement. Though they are some in the parties who don't fit that apparent mold, the vast majority from what the public has seen overwhelmingly do. BTW we need to get rid of people with limited knowledge of issues and those untraveled, close minded, etc. You know who these people are...Bill O'reilly, Rush, Sarah, etc.

    March 8, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Geterdone

    So what did he say that was so wrong? It's not like he called them web-footed hillbillies.

    March 8, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Wes B.

    Everything he said was true. The Tea Party is racist. They do NOT act very Christian-like in their words or actions. Schiller was just telling the truth.

    I have no problem with this dumb kid doing his documentaries. The truth is the truth.

    March 8, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Dave

    I don't see what the controversy is. It was one man expressing his opinion, which is the same freedom of speech that this "gotcha filmmaker" relies upon to do what he does, and besides, the guy's right: the Tea Party *is* racist for the most part. I live in the South, I know a *LOT* of Tea Partiers, and most of them are racist.

    March 8, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Tracy

    He spoke the absolute truth about the Tea Party. NPR has nothing to be appalled about.

    March 8, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. T'sah from Virginia

    LMAO – embarassing but nothing ACCOMPLISHED, nothing GAINED and nothing LOST!!!

    Calm down TP – this is not a reason to DEFUND – which is the goal most likely set out by O'Keefe in the first place that FAILED!!!!!

    Still – it was FUNNY!!!!!

    March 8, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  14. Nardfather

    I don't really see that the big deal is here. And this O'Keefe guy is super lame. His hiddend camera stunts don't really do much of anything

    March 8, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. Seattle Girl

    They are racist and scary !!

    March 8, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Mikey B

    Oops. I bet he'd like to have that one back.

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

    I guess I missed what he did wrong as well. So this guy thinks the tea party is racist? He's not the only one. He's also not responsible for the editorial slant of NPR. From the story it appears he works on the contributions side.

    March 8, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. ModerateMike

    Hmmm..... I wonder what execs at Fox News would have to say about any liberal parties. Gimme a break.

    March 8, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. Gina

    As a NPR listener I'm pretty bummed because the Teaparty is going to jump all over this even though the guy is not part of the news department. They are such a reactionary group, they won't sit down and listen to a logical explanation from the majority of those at NPR that oppose what this guy said. Thanks a lot Mr. Schiller. Yet another reason for the right to ask for no government funding of NPR. It is such a small portion of the budget I don't know why people even care, other than to shut up the moderate leftists.

    March 8, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. bob oh

    Yea, maybe NPR will run some more pieces with the murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal and then bring in Jared Lee Loughner to provide balance to the their reporting.

    March 8, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. Don Beal

    I think there is a very strong racist or xenophobic component to the Tea Party. We have had such public reactions repeatedly in our past. I'm thinking of the Know-Nothings of the 1800's. The Tea Party is another reaction to a changing America and the fear such a change engenders.

    March 8, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. PR

    The Tea Party IS A BUNCH OF EXTREMEISTS POSING AS TAXPAYERS WORRIED ABOUT THE DEFICIT They are extreme rightwingers who want to enforce ultra-conservative christian views and teachings. If the Tea Party wins you will not have relgious freedom...and the loss of your other freedoms will follow

    March 8, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Independent AntiGovTexan

    Whatever his motives, he is right. The Tea Party are racist, bigoted, evangelical christian hate-mongers one and all, and all intelligent, thinking Americans SHOULD be very afraid. If these people gain substantial power, we'll be goose-stepping to "The Saints Come Marching In."

    March 8, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Florida

    Your tax dollars at work, America.

    March 8, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. jjheinis

    Ron Schiller's statements are accurate. However, we live in Limbaughland where ignorance is bliss and Ronald Reagan sitteth at the right hand of Jeezus. NPR is bending over backwards to appease the TeaParty. Sadly, the founders of this country did understand Americans and their joy in ignorance.

    March 8, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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