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. Patrick

    how is this any different than the prank call to the Wisconsin Governor, that the GOP claims does not count, yet nthis counts. The GOP baits people and they call that honest. So what. The Tea Party is racist as they only have one color in their ranks, white people. simple. NPR is correct in their assessment of the Tea Party. RAcists, that have used the n-word when referring to our Congress last year in Washington DC.

    March 8, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. blake

    Suprise, suprise, NPR slams conservatives. Can't believe leftist media continues to get government funding. This is not right. Conservatives, rise up and permanently remove their funding, along with PBS, and all other government subsidized leftist propoganda vehicles.

    March 8, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. truth2power

    Tea parties are for little girls.

    March 8, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Steve

    Nothing new here to objective and independent thinking Americans...majority of self-professed liberal & anti-Christian media unable to maintain journalistic objectivity, engage in double standards, and attempt to indoctrinate millions of American sheep to their historically pecular viewpoints. Witness the vilification of O'Keefe for daring to show the hidden motives and authentic beliefs the PC left's continuous march to the aggrandizement of the holy self.

    March 8, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. AJ

    NPR would do just fine without federal funding? Well then, let's pull their funding immediately! Why on earth are we dumping tax dollars into an organization that admits it doesn't need the money?

    March 8, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. slurpon1

    why get mad after watching these tea bags here in Wisconsin the truth about them does need to be told they are all lieing Koch heads and thats that!

    March 8, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. mat

    After Juan Williams was fired for expressing an opinion while not even at NPR there is no excuse for this. Maybe they will get AIDS and die, but most people here are too ignorant to know what Im talking about. Shes still there BTW.

    March 8, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. JohnDHater

    When did telling the truth ever become a bad thing?

    March 8, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. Kimo

    What Schiller said was not that they didn't need federal money but that they would be better off without it. He said that some stations would be lost, meaning that they do need the money. I have no doubt that what Schiller meant was that didn't take taxpayer dollars they wouldn't have to appease conservatives at all and would be free to pursue a more liberal agenda. From a Tea Party point of view that's probably just as bad but it's more accurate than what they are saying.

    March 8, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Bill NY

    People will deny that the Tea Party is racist, but Rand Paul who is a poster boy for the Tea Party is pro-discrimnination(per his remark that businesses should have the right to discriminate). No joke! He said it.

    March 8, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    "Personally I don't think the Tea Party movement is racist, but I DO think that there are some racist in the Tea Party"

    Here's a clue. There are racists in EVERY organization. That goes for the Tea Party, the NAACP, the Boy Scouts, the Catholic Church, the Black Panthers, the local Knitting Club... you get the idea. And it's very unfortunate.

    Being an organization carries with it the responsibility to marginalize the problem. That can be very difficult when the media tends to sensationalize the problem instead.

    March 8, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. Gerald Carter

    I'm an American TaxPayer and I want my hard earned tax dollars to keep funding NPR. I rather it go to NPR than to Big Oil.

    March 8, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. Publicly Admits Nothing!

    "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

    Based on the quotes in this article that is entirely false. Mr. Schiller simply expressed that he'd rather not but admits to needing the funding to continue operations.

    March 8, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. jurorno5

    After reading this article, I'm simply happy not to wake up each morning and be James O'Keefe.

    March 8, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. Son of CSM.Wiggins

    Freedom of speech

    March 8, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Jim8

    This says more about O'Keefe than it does about NPR.

    Hard for me to ignore the fact that the first Tea Party rally was held on the day of Obama's inauguration. The Tea Party people I personally know probably do a good job of representing the group, they are the most racist people I know.

    March 8, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. RG

    The Tea Party is NOT racist. They hate all middle-class and lower Americans, especially the Muslim ones.

    March 8, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Loren

    He's right...the Tea Party *is* scary. Potentially brown-shirt scary.

    March 8, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. Bob

    Freedom of speech doesn't give you the right to be a jerk without reprisal from your boss. Just FYI.

    March 8, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  20. Jim8

    >>In the video, they pose as representatives of a Muslim organization that is considering making a $5 million donation to NPR.

    If that is a bad check I hope someone goes to jail.

    March 8, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. Basement_Cat

    In one sense Mr. O'Keefe's motives are transparent - he seeks to destabilize by way of deceit, which certainly appears to provide some entertainment value for a certain social strata. In another sense his actions appear to be a simple cry for attention, borderline-personality attempt to gain notice. In either case his juvenile pranks are considered deplorable by responsible citizens of either party as well as the growing number of independents, and you can bet he'd whine like a little kid if someone used similar tactics on him.

    As for the Tea Party, they perform a great service to America by demonstrating the value of action bereft of reason and knowledge. They terrorize some career politicians, unwittingly serve the extreme elements of the Republican party, and provide low comedy for all to see.

    March 8, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. Dave

    He was just speaking the truth, they are racists and bigots parading around in a 3 ring circus led by head clown Sarah Palin.

    March 8, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  23. Josh

    I think he's right that the Tea Party is a bunch of evangelical, racist, xenophobic wackos! Ron Schiller, way to speak out on behalf of the Non-Tea Party/everyone else views. Too bad this conversation is edited and the entire transcript is not available on CNN of the conversation. It would make it a much better article.

    March 8, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He did voice his concerns. The difference here and what Juan Williams did was who was on-air. Williams was repeatedly warned that if he is someplace else, he still represents NPR. His view point would be seen as NPR's. Ron Schiller was not behind a microphone at all. Besides, Williams was speaking about a religious group. Ron Schiller was speaking about a "johnny come lately" political group.

    March 8, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. ChiTownArkie

    The only line that NPR should have a problem with is the following......NPR, which is partially funded by government money, would be "better off without federal funding." The rest of his remarks seem appropriate and truthful.

    March 8, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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