NPR exec shown slamming the Tea Party
March 8th, 2011
12:35 PM ET
4 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. Scot

    WE NEED NPR not these idiots running it !

    March 8, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. George

    Everything Schiller said is true.

    March 8, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  3. Tim

    To the Other Dale and Vet in Texas: The undercover director doesn't need to turn the camera on it's own party, the entire field of "journalism" is constantly searching for any inconsistencies in the Republican party and ignoring those in the DemocratIC party. That necessitates the role that O'Keefe is playing in these undercover stings. And no money was accepted because no money was actually being offered. They didn't actually have the five million dollars. And you're missing the point of the sting, which is to visually and audibly confirm the biases that NPR holds within its rants. This wouldn't be a story if NPR did not accept public taxpayer dollars. As a taxpayer, I don't want my tax dollars going to an organization that is opening campaigning against my political interests. You would feel the same way if say, Fox News, received your tax dollars.

    The fact that public money, my money, is being funneled to these anti-GOP, pro-abortion, pro-affirmative action, pro-illegal immigration propaganda machines IS the issue, not how the tapes were obtained. Why don't you focus on the message and issue instead of blindly attacking the messenger.

    And to call him a failure at these pranks is a false statement also. If I am not mistaken, ACORN lost all federal funding. That's seems pretty successful to me. And it's a good thing for America also. Planned Parenthood is next and then comes NPR. Way to go O'Keefe.

    March 8, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  4. Angie

    As opposed to individually/stock-owned news companies, when a news org such as NPR accepts public funding it also accepts the responsibility of reporting non-biased news. Mr. Schiller's bigotry and hateful opinions have no place in NPR.

    March 8, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. Meeche

    The only thing Schiller said wrong was that NPR doesn't need federal funding. NPR, PBS and the national weather service are all we have left of non-corporate unbiased news. Isn't there a law O'Keefe is breaking??

    March 8, 2011 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. JT Hawaii

    Just another attempt by the fading Republican party to limit the voice of anyone who isn't right-wing Bat-S#%! crazy. First they attack unions, now they attack NPR just because they aren't selling fear and paranoia to the masses.

    March 8, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. non sequitur

    Mark Meckler needs to listen (and wisen) up. Schiller said that NPR would be "better off without federal funding" – not that "NPR doesn't need federal funding." To the contrary, he said that a lot of stations would go dark without federal funding, which is a pretty plain indication that NPR needs it. There are plenty of reasons that his statement is true; if NPR didnt receive federal funding, it wouldnt be subject to the same right-wing scrutiny and wouldnt have to defend itself against their innane attacks.

    March 8, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. rs

    But on the other hand, the TP IS racist and scary!

    March 8, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Lori in St Pete

    Considering Mr. O'Keefe has serious credibility issues, I'll wait for the full, unedited version of the video to be released prior to passing judgement against Mr. Schiller. NPR should err on the side of caution and do the same lest they find themselves on the receiving end of the lawsuit Mr. Schiller will file against them should they terminate or discipline him prior to the full, unedited version or Mr. O'Keefe's video being released.

    March 8, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Bill

    Big Deal. Who doesn't think the Tea Party is full of racist xenophobes and islamaphobes? You can't call someone out for speaking the truth about a movement, nice try O'Keefe. Shouldn't O'Keefe be in prison for attempted espionage of Congressman anyway? You would think that after his rich Republican daddy got him off the hook he would knock it off with his criminal like behavior.

    March 8, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    America needs to once and for all address racism instead of that "I got you moment" of awe and shock. Racism is real, it exist and it's found in every corner of the earth and it serves on purpose because it's a mental illness.

    March 8, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. 26_third_street

    I wonder if NPR will fire this Schiller person. If not – I guess we have no choice but accept his comments as those of NPR.

    March 8, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Gary Davis

    and by telling the truth , the tea party gets upset . oh well keep up the good work tellin the truth about the racist tea party republicans . bunch of bigots good ole white boys . time to vote all of them out of office . and vote in people that aren't racist or followers of the corporate big business bottom feeders

    March 8, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. j

    I don't see how anything he said was inaccurate, other than the part about NPR not needing federal funding. His assessment of the tea party is spot on. They are a bunch of busy-body hypocrites who decry large government but want to stick their noses in everyone's business and tell people how to live their lives. They are a cult, in my opinion- The political equivalent of scientologists.

    March 8, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. sara

    Shiller spoke the TRUTH....now "may we take back freedom of speech", that part of the constitution I don't like!!!!

    March 8, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. Cedar Rapids

    'Mr. Schiller himself candidly admits in the video that NPR doesn't need federal funding'
    He did no such thing.
    He said "better off without federal funding." – a totally different thing entirely. In fact he went on to say "The problem is that if we lost it now, a lot of stations would go dark," so it is needed. Typical misrepresentation of the facts.

    March 8, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. nitro

    He said exactly what he was trying to say. Everybody but the Pee Party and Republicans know that they are a racist organization. They question everyone's patriotism but their own when they are the one's that are questionable.

    March 8, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Not that pimp again! He showed really get a real job!, Maybe as an actor.

    March 8, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. Nodack

    Another attempt by the Acorn pimp trying to dig up dirt on any organization that isnt friendly with the GOP. He did catch the NPR guy telling the truth that the tea party is racist and scary, but he didn't get them to bite on their stupid Muslim bait.

    To me acorn pimp guy is a perfect example of what the GOP has turned into. Their whole party is built on lying, cheating, fabrications, cheap parlor tricks, deception. Instead of leading by example they just attempt to make the other guy look worse than them.

    That doesn't work on me, but it sure does work on the weak minded people that watch FOX News.

    March 8, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. Zak

    He told nothing but the truth....

    March 8, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. XWngLady

    Okay. PLEASE STOP WITH THE UNDERCOVER VIDEOS, PRANKS, etc....and I'm talking to BOTH parties...We're turning our politics into a tacky, low class, reality tv environment. Let me ask you, if we followed ANY of us around with surveillance cameras, what would we see? Rrrright....So, I we need to back off of the 'gotcha' politics and worry more about things like the economy, our troops in harms way overseas, homeless in America, etc...Because embracing this type of "truth seeking" will definitely take us down the wrong road.

    March 8, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. TCM

    Schiller is an idiot; and NPR is a waste of an establishment. He criticizes the Tea Party because he, like Obama and the other liberal idiots, hate this country and it's Constitution...and want to bring the United States down....

    March 8, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. WHATTT!?

    So NPR slants the news and Fox News is fair and balanced?

    I listen to NPR and they are one of the few reporting stations that do NOT put spin on things. They get information from both sides. Just last week NPR had small business owners on the station, each rating Obama as an F. Moreover, they are not rude and crude and shoving an agenda down people's throats like Fox News and MSNBC.

    Pisses me off that people can just lie about stuff. American's have no respect and dignity anymore..it is all about what they drive and where they live...sad

    March 8, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. Sirx

    Well, no one is suggesting that people in this country don't have free speech. But if you have the galls to say it, you better have the [rhyming word] to accept the consequences of it. People don't like to take responsibility–it's all about playing a victim card.

    And people like O'Keefe who do this kind of thing really doesn't bother me–it's no more than the guy who prank-called Governor Walker a few weeks back. O'Keefe has never and will never trap anyone who behaves as ethically in private as they like to portray in public. The only thing I dislike about him is that he identifies himself as Republican and won't do the same undercover service for the right wing. It demeans his work from "Exposing secret scumbags who prostitute themselves as public servants" to "Petty political attack/stunt".

    March 8, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. jeff george

    O'Keefe lied through his behind in the ACORN thing. He didn't actually appear in front of the ACORN staff dressed as a pimp. It was all deceitful editing. And he failed to bug a congressional office. And he failed to fool a CNN reporter. Now he's got an empty bag again. This guy is the best the neocons can do?

    March 8, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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