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. Dennis

    NPR has become a mouthpiece for the left. Why should taxpayers fund it?

    March 8, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  2. Newter the GOTP

    My goodness, what an expose this is: Basically O'keefe has footage of himself trying to defraud NPR, and an executive sharing his personal opinions of the Tea Party and their homophobic, xenophobic, nationalistic, corporatistic ways! Horrible stuff, that freedom of speech. I just wish NPR wouldn't have rolled over on this so quickly – call O'keefe out, don't eat your own. How about we start posting photos of these so-called "journalists" so they can be escorted from the building as soon as they show up in costume. Oh, and by the way, why is it when someone dresses up as a pimp and claims to be a pimp, they aren't arrested and charged as a pimp?

    March 8, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  3. Sean Russell

    I don't understand where the controversy is. This guy was right on the money. The tea party is nothing but a new "Know-Nothings" party. They are racist, xenophobic, fundamentalist "christians". The more their horrible views are exposed; the better off this country will be.

    March 8, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  4. Linda D Bryant

    The Tea Party is a RACIST organization that chose to rear its ugly head after the election of Barack Hussein Obama!
    All of a sudden these folks want less government–(i.e.–less Social Programs) and they want their country back.

    What they don't want is an African-American man in Power!
    I've never seen so much HATE spewed–(except during the Civil Rights Era) as I've seen since the POTUS put his hand on the Bible took the oath of office two years ago!

    March 8, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  5. Tom

    O'Keefe may be a bit of a clown but to say he came up empty handed is spin on your part. Haven't seen the video but if the Senior VP of Fundraising really said something that disparaging, that is something, and just feeds into what many already believe about the news dept.

    March 8, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. Dan from Tx

    The Tea Party is a racist organization only as far as the Muslim religion is a terrorist organization.

    March 8, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. GaryB

    I have neighbors, relatives and clients that are active in the tea party, and though they are basically OK people, they do tend to have a somewhat racist and/or wenophobic world view when it comes to people who are not like them (ie not white, not Christian and not over the age of 40). Frankly, Schiller was just telling it like it is. If that's laudable in a politician like Governor Chris Christie why is it a bad thing for a fundraising exec?

    March 8, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. George

    @Jonathan, there is nothing wrong with "telling the truth" the problem is that when you're truth is a bunch of half baked opinions that aren't fact and you are in a position of leadership in a big influential organization then you need to get fired and the people that are in charge of steering the ship need to be evaluated for their poor lack of ability to hire smart, fair people. Bigoted and biased people, even if they believe their opinions are fair are still bigoted and biased. Glenn Beck, O'Reilly, Franken, Jesse Jackson, all of them, they all believe the crap they say, but their still stupid.

    March 8, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  9. John Metsopoulos

    The truth hurts.

    March 8, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  10. Jack

    NPR should grow some backbone and admit that Shiller is right. The Tea Party IS full of racists and fanatical Christians. Of course NPR would be better of without federal funding (and hence be independent of the whims of the right) IF it were able to support itself (which it is not). One of the reasons we are heading backwards in the U.S. is the timidity of the mainstream media. Why don't we expose the lunacy of the far right on a daily basis?

    March 8, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    @ vet in texas...
    I agree with you 100% If this guy were to go behind the scenes at some GOP or right wing group's meetings I bet he could find a WHOLE lot of unsavory stuff to tape. Heck be a fly on the wall at a FoxNews staff meeting and see what goes on in there. LOL

    March 8, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. frogman

    What O'keefe does is called lying. It is not going undercover. O'keefe and other little right wing turds like him display nothing that can be recognized as conventional morals. They will say and do anything to make the people who the disagree with them look bad. They just don't understand that by lying to their victims they make themselves look worse. Yes they are heros to the right wing nut cases but they are despised by all ethical people. And the tea baggers are racists, they are motivated by hate and they are scary.

    March 8, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. libtard hater

    juan williams told the truth and they fired him. ....i'm still trying to figure out what he did wrong.

    March 8, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Reality

    Make Alan Keyes Speaker of the House, then have Obama, and Biden step down, thereby making Keyes president of the USA. Since he is an African American, all of you real racist liberals would then see how hollow your claim is that the TEA PARTY is racist. The TEA PARTY would embrace Alan Keyes as president whole heartedly. Thank God Liberalism is evaporating like a pool of leftover rainwater on a hot summer day.

    March 8, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  15. JerryH1

    This story is somewhat misleading. While Mr. Schiller did single out the Tea Party in particular comments, he slammed the entire Republican party as being "anti-intellectual" and as closed-minded. If you watch the whole videotape, including the part where Mr. Schiller agrees that Jewish people control the media, you'd be appalled. I understand that people have to kiss up to those who are offering to donate a lot of money, but the two NPR people said some pretty egregious stuff and listened to and nodded in agreement with some even more outrageous comments.

    March 8, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  16. Matt

    Freedom of speech is protection from the government trying to suppress your speech. It doesn't protect an employee from an employer. Learn what freedom of speech is before commenting about it.

    March 8, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. King Grayskull

    Why are you liberals defending what the executive said when NPR itself has said they are "contrary to what NPR stands for"?

    March 8, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. dumbasrocks [R]s

    I congratulate Schiller for speaking the truth...I hope he doesn't intend to apologize.

    I also congratulate O'Keefe on yet another sophomoric attempt to mold a false entrapment of people who are doing good. Such extreme efforts by one of so little intelligence is quite pathetic. If he really wanted to embarass someone, why not film just about any elected Teatard in DC? There, one [R] cannot fling his own excrement without hitting another corrupt [R] in the head.

    March 8, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  19. New Age Independant

    The fact that NPR has a heavy liberal bias should come as no surprise to anyone. Government funding should be immediately halted. They should also be fined heavily for accepting the funding knowing full well that they were in violation of the terms of such funding.

    March 8, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. Edwin

    What a loser. This O'Kreep guy needs to get a life. While real corruption happens, he just looks to expose decent people. People like him live in Palin land, and the Tea Party is very Xenophobic.

    March 8, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. bobcat1a

    The Tea Party is made up of two groups: agents-provacateur of the radical right and their stooges. Many of them are racist but not all by any means. But if they let Michelle Bachmann be their public face, they are at best disingenuous. They claim not to be republicans but I still haven't found a democrat they support.

    March 8, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Inmyopinion

    I think people can tell the truth and practice freedom of speech as long as the tax dollars (federal funding) they are accepting to be used in helping their broadcasting of shows, etc.. is used without showing favoritism towards a political party, unfortunately NPR and PBS are broadcasting shows that show preference to the Democrat Party and insults, trashes the Republican Party and they are accepting our tax dollars.

    If they were not accepting our tax dollars then they are free to show partiality towards the Democrat Party and they can trash Republicans all they want.

    March 8, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. Detroit Tea Sipper

    Schillers busted and now resigning, excellent job Mr. O'Keefe. Keep exposing the hatred and bias only the libtards are capable of.

    March 8, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  24. John N Florida

    I totally believe in the 2nd Amendment. But I have to say, in this climate I'm more concerned over the Reich Wing than I am some stupid burglar.
    The Tea Party is advocating an American Theocracy with the Christian bible as the source of all legislation. I'm a Christian but I draw a hard line between my bible and my Constitution. I don't confuse the two.
    I believe God gave woman a brain and the full capability to use it in the best interests of HER body. I would LIKE to be consulted in her decisions, but I'm not entitled to nor should I have Veto power over her decisions.
    When the viewed representatives on cameras are older Americans telling the government to stay out of their Health Care (and you KNOW they're on Medicare by their age) you know there is a disconnect between reality and agenda.
    The John Birch Society was the previous iteration of this agenda. Ronald Reagan had the courage to put them in their place.
    There is no current Republican leader with the cajones to do as Reagan did.

    March 8, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  25. Ha Ha

    Why is it the teaparty gets their panties in a bunch when someone else pushes back on them, voices their opinion which is contradictory to their own. I am glad this man said what he said, because given how much they DON'T know, they are in fact scay, misguided, under educated, un-american and ineffective (walker, bachmann, tatz, angle and the whole lot). Anyone who encourages the disruption of th epolitical process a la thei rtown hall meeting BS behavior, they are evil. Pure dangerous evil and they ought to be redered into dust lest they destroy the United States of America.

    March 8, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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