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

    Mr. Schiller accurately summed up the Tea Party, you want proof? Just look at the McCarthy-like trials that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is about to put on questioning Muslim Americans about Radicals in their religion. Why just Muslims? Why not Radical Christian groups like the West Burrough Church? Oh that's right King is a Tea Partier so Christians are off-limits.

    March 8, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Timothy

    I, and pretty much everyone I know, completely agree with Mr. Schiller. Moreover, he is not a part of the news team, and is free to say whatever he likes. Unless you don't believe in Freedom of Speech. Yes, speech has consequences–in this case, I bet a lot of Tea Partiers will stop giving to NPR. I'm sure that would be financially devastating. Oh wait, no, I totally don't think that at all.

    March 8, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Debi

    I think the people being video taped in any of O'Keefe's "productions" should sue him for recording them without consent.
    It is illegal to record any person with out warrant in quite a few states. In which state was this "production" created?
    Sue them, that will make them think twice about cut and pasting together audio tapes to make their case.

    March 8, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Mark L

    What did this NPR exec say that wasn't true about the Tea Party?

    March 8, 2011 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. Aric

    What's wrong with him saying bad things about the Tea Party? Look at them nutjobs. I will say that not all of them are racist, but there are a few. But all Tea Party People are a bit messed up in the head in one way or another. We just have to accept that and warn our children to stay away from them.

    March 8, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    O'Keefe should stop leaching off the Tea Party movement and do something productive with his life. I cannot believe that anyone with any integrity or intelligence would take him seriously. The fact is that millions of American families rely on NPR as their source for cerebral programming. We should be spending federal money on infrastructure and EDUCATION, which includes public media. But apparently, some would rather watch commercials on Fox news.

    March 8, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Ginny

    I hope nobody is surprised that NPR execs are pompous, left-leaning libs.

    March 8, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. Bill

    Wait a minute. When I emailed them expressing displeasure at their handling of Juan Williams, the email reply I received from Schiller's office told me they haven't received federal funding in many years.

    So which is it Schiller?

    I like many of the shows on NPR, but our money doesn't need to be wasted on them.

    March 8, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. MC

    Why doesn't CNN point out that O'Keefe accepted legal immunity for the unedited ACORN tapes that proved they did nothing illegal? Why doesn't CNN point out that he is a convicted federal criminal? Why doesn't CNN point out that he has NEVER produced a video that wasn't later proven to be taken out of context and heavily edited? I think these facts are somewhat important to this story.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. scotty

    Yes, and there are racists in the Democratic party, the New Black Panthers, NAACP, LULAC... but those organizations are not inherently racist. I've been to several Tea Party events and race is never brought up because conservatives don't see color like liberals do.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. Who We Thought They Were

    NPR is who we thought they were: ultra-liberal Democrats with a bias against whites, males, Christians, and gun owners. It is obvious that NPR is a political organization rather than a media outlet, and they should be prohibited from receiving public money immediately. The issue isn't that NPR has an opinion. Fox, MSNBC, and CNN have strongly held opinions, too. The issue is that those media outlets are private companies. Defund NPR now.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. Peggy - TX

    The Tea Party movement IS "racist" and "scary." Absolutel;y nothing wrong with that statement.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  13. Rev Mkell,

    Well it's only fair for someone at NPR to slam the Tea Party! After all the Tea Party slams NPR! Which in the Tea Party's eyes make prefect since NPR doesn't hate the Prez and call for his execution or gush the love for every thing Tea Party! Free speech seem to be reserved for those on the far right only! All other must be shouted down as un-American!

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. BobH

    Everything Schiller says is accurate. He most certainly didn't say that NPR doesn't need Fed money– he said that without it, many small stations would go dark. True. He said many Tea Party activists are xenophobic fundamentalists. True. And he says he wishes NPR could simply tell the truth without wackos who don't believe in evolution constantly threatening to eliminate their funding. Also true. He has nothing to apologize for.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. JB

    CALL A SPADE A SPADE!!! Peter King wants to open inquiries into how dangerous islamic americans are, well how about the tea party? They truly are the most dangerous threat to America and I'm tired of people pretending they aren't. WHo cheats their taxes? Who cheats the system? Who uses corporate tax loopholes? Who literally wants a slave population to serve an ultra elite class who are miseducated (creationism & megachurches are total B.S.) to the perversion of Christian principles (Tolerance, forgiveness, that financial gain at the expense of others is a path to hell) to the outright bigotry of refusing to acknowledge Obama as a PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES or that he is even an American Citizen because he is black. If you aren't aware the top 1% of Americans own 95% of the wealth of this country. Stop voting for rich people on both sides! Stop caring about prolife/prochoice or illegal immigration. wake the F up and care that the tea party and thei corporate sponsors are stealing our freaking money and blaming it on teachers and unions!! I look forward to revolution here, it's what happens when a population gets ripped off by greedy bastards for too long.

    March 8, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. Chris

    NPR, like CNN, is a demonstrably liberal-leaning organization. There's nothing wrong with having a point of view. Of course, having the courage to admit it would be admirable, but I digress. The difference is that CNN doesn't get federal funding, and must, instead, rely on its weak-minded audience and powerful liberal advertisers for its funding. Don't get me wrong, I dearly love NPR, but I'm not under any illusions about the unfairness of my tax dollars supporting what basically amounts to liberal propaganda. It's not that I think the federal government should start a new initiative to support a conservative agenda. I think the government should stay out of it altogether, and the first step towards that end would be to discontinue subsidizing this liberal-leaning organization. I am a Tea Party supporter, by the way, and I am certainly no racist. This myth of rampant racism in the Tea Party movement is just one example of the type of disinformation that CNN, NPR, and other liberal-leaning media outlets have diligently cultivated. Schiller's candid remarks only serve to solidify what critical-thinking people already know: That NPR is a liberal-leaning organization which which intends to discredit the Tea Party movement by invoking the highly-charged, emotional issue of racism. I'm not defending O'Keefe's methods, but he has managed to expose the ugly underbelly of NPR for all to see.

    March 8, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. victor

    Just go back to footage when obama won thay all its like 911 all over again

    March 8, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Cole

    But there is no bias from NPR is there? Wake up people, enough is enough.

    March 8, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Son of CSM.Wiggins

    Truth hurts

    March 8, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. Dave

    Well, he certainly described them accurately.

    March 8, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Ichorrid

    I hope a movie is made about O'Keefe's foray into political activism/journalism. It would probably possess that 'at the end of the movie you've realized nothing' feel, like the Big Lebowski or Burn After Reading.

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. jimatmadison

    The only lie I see is Tea Partier Mark Meckler's "Mr. Schiller himself candidly admits in the video that NPR doesn't need federal funding."

    In fact, Schiller said the exact opposite – that "The problem is that if we lost it now, a lot of stations would go dark".

    Tea Party IS largely racist. That's not a lie. That barely falls into the 'opinion' category.

    The only problem is that the guy would have known he was being taped, he wouldn't have said it out loud.

    And he didn't take the money.

    What a bunch of loser dweebs the Tea Partiers have turned into.

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. Russell

    Glad to see that someone has the cohones to slap back at the tea party.

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  24. Jeff

    We pay NPR 80 million a year, us the taxpayers, and they are supposed to present the news in an unbiased fashion. These NPR executives are at a meeting with investigative reporters who are posing as a muslim organization that is an offshoot of the muslim brotherhood that wants to donate 5 million to NPR because Jews have to much influence in the media. Just that alone they should be defunded. Then they disparage half the country and say that conservatives are basically dumb racists. At one point the "muslim" donor says they call NPR Nation Palestinian Radio and the two executives laugh and say good one! Defund NPR now!

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. M-AZ

    I am going to make sure I pledge and give money to NPR...I challenge others to do the same. The Tea Party movement is racist!

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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