Activist says he targeted NPR because of Juan Williams firing
Conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe
March 8th, 2011
06:55 PM ET
11 years ago

Activist says he targeted NPR because of Juan Williams firing

(CNN) – UPDATE: National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday, according to the organization's website. This comes the day after tape was released of an NPR senior executive slamming the tea party and saying NPR would be better off without federal funding.

The conservative activist responsible for producing an undercover video showing a National Public Radio senior executive slamming the Tea Party as "racist" and "scary" is speaking out about why he went after the organization.

Late Tuesday evening, the executive in question, Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ron Schiller, issued an apology and said that his already-announced resignation would be effective immediately, instead of in May as planned. Schiller had announced last week that he was leaving NPR for a job with the Aspen Institute.

Filmmaker James O'Keefe said the idea for the sting stemmed from an incident in October when NPR fired analyst Juan Williams after he said he got scared when people wore Muslim garb on airplanes.

"My colleague Shaughn Adeleye who posed as one of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood was pretty offended with what happened with Juan Williams and he suggested looking into NPR after that incident back in the fall," O'Keefe said to CNN Correspondent Brian Todd on Tuesday.

"My other colleague Simon Templar came up with the idea to have a Muslim angle since Juan Williams was fired due to his comments. So we decided to see if there was a greater truth or hidden truth amongst these reporters and journalists and executives."

Juan Williams has since been hired full-time by Fox News.

O'Keefe 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.

Schiller and another NPR executive are shown on the video 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.

Late Tuesday evening, Schiller issued an apology through NPR.

"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs," Schiller said in a statement. "I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6th, to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today."

Earlier, an NPR spokeswoman condemned Schiller's remarks.

"The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed," said NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm. "NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day – in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell."

Rehm also decried Schiller's statement that NPR would be "better off without federal funding," in the statement – her second released since reports of the undercover video surfaced.

"The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole," Rehm said.

- CNN's Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

soundoff (192 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    The most important thing about this story is that the NPR rep REFUSED the $5 million offer from the so-called "Muslims."

    Trust Fox, though, to gloss that over and spin this story to supported their political agenda. Nothing "fair and balanced" about that ...

    March 8, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. S. In California

    Schiller TOLD THE TRUTH. Moving right along....

    March 8, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    Here's an idea for "filmmaker" James O'Keefe:

    Investigate Fox's widespread use of editing video to twist people's words and totally mislead their viewers.

    Recent case in point: On March 1 on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox, Bill O'Reilly showed, as a backdrop to discussing the protests in Wisconsin, footage of a rowdy protest scene in which mounted police had to intervene between protesters. The message was clear: Union protesters in Wisconsin were getting out of hand!

    On closer inspection, PALM TREES were spotted in the background of the video. PALM TREES? Just what part of Wisconsin was this?

    Once again, Fox and its flunkies lied to further their political agenda. So much for reporting the "news" in a "fair and balanced" way.

    Let's see if James O'Keefe has the guts to report on THIS!

    March 8, 2011 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. no to slobama

    good move, now take their funding away and let the racist NPR oragnization rot with the rest of the obama friends.

    March 8, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Pretzel Logic

    This kid is a grade a wacko. Didn't he try to kidnap a female journalist and hold her in a yacht decorated with marital aids? How does any self respecting conservative applaud this moron?

    March 8, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    O'Keefe's targeting of NPR was vindictive yellow journalism at its worst. The conservative right is trying to get its pound of flesh by punishing NPR for being balanced, fair, and independent in its reporting.

    March 8, 2011 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  7. paul

    O'Keefe, just because you "doctor" a video choosing the parts you want to fit your ideology, doesn't mean it's true. Only on Fox news can you get away with just repeating something over and over again until its true. Remember, how Madison Wis grows palm trees in the winter, how tea party crowd was doctored, etc. etc. Maybe they have a job over their for you???? Keep trying.

    March 8, 2011 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I am tired of Fox activists trying to make stories where one does not exist. Fox is a worthless pile of crap and that goes for O'Keefe. I would only say to Murdoch's morons, "America, love it or leave it."

    March 8, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  9. Vet

    James the flim flam man have a face only a mother could love, he wasted his puppet string backers money over nothing, I don't see anything the NRP Executive said that wasn't his opinion and covered under his first amendment rights, Dang !! I did it again, first amendment rights and free speech only aplies to the right wing jerks, rethugs and others like them who want to take back America as soon as they determine who to take it back from and when it was lost.

    March 8, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  10. Lisa P

    Wow, and he sure proved his point. Not.

    Wasn't this guy convicted of something in his last escapade? How does secretly taping under false pretenses the private comments of a single NPR manager who's planning to leave anyway amount to "proof" of anything? Why are you even treating this garbage as a story, CNN?

    March 8, 2011 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  11. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Fox should be targeted for their 'National Enquire' form of news casting.

    March 8, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  12. T'sah from Virginia

    O'Keefe should TARGET Peter King with a couple of White people visiting his office and talking about Muslims!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Naw, he won't do that – his agenda is very clear and his mission is NOT Fair and Balanced!!! Fox should hire him – oh wait, maybe he is already working for them!!

    March 8, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  13. TWM

    Why is this young man not in jail? Is he not the bozo who scamed Sen. Landreau and got brought up on Federal Charges?
    I guess it's "Investigative" Journalism

    March 8, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  14. jeff george

    O'Keefe is not an activist. His original Acorn video was a product of deceitful editing. Then he got caught trying to illegally tap phones, and then he screwed up trying unsuccessfully to fool somebody from CNN. This doesn't sound like activism. It sounds like he's a court jester.

    March 8, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  15. carlf

    Why doesn't this story get more coverage? This shows our current press does not practice peer review or self policing. The articles I have read have made O'keffe being more at fault than Schiller. Just like with move on, it is only the pure liberal truth/Lie!

    March 8, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  16. Four and The Door

    NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm. "NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day – in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell...
    It sounded believable until she got to the part about,"...range of opinions." I hardly think conservative opinions are given a fair shake on NPR. This rant of their Senior VP Fundraiser Ron Schiller is just a hint at that idea. NPR thrives on the liberal givaways of the Democratic Party and pays back with plenty of airtime and ideological support.

    March 8, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  17. Jeff in Virginia

    O'Keefe is back in the news, again, for pulling the same stunts that he has pulled before.

    Wasn't one of the terms of his probation that he stop doing this kind of stuff? Is he even allowed to leave New Jersey? I smell a probation violation.

    And just so that I'm not seen as attacking the messenger.. The Tea Party is scary and racist. Nobody should be fired for speaking that truth.

    March 8, 2011 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  18. feudi

    Schiller exposed himself as a self-important, arrogant, snotty little twit! Isn't it odd that the Rehms Family holds such sway at NPR. Nepotism is not healthy in Iraq or America.

    March 8, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  19. Peter

    How does this rate as a sting?

    The Tea Party does have scary and racist supporters. (what did everyone –including conservatives think when they first heard of the Arizona shootings?) Many GOP spokespeople have engaged in anti-intellectual speech.

    Schiller may have violated NPRs code of conduct, but does that warrant describing his statements as a sting?

    March 8, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  20. video guy

    When is this guy going to be put behind bars? Maybe a month in jail with pipped in Sarah Palin books on tape would help.

    March 8, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. mrlewish

    I don't see anything that's not true. The teaparty is by and large a racist organization with scary nationalistic/fascist overtones.

    March 8, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  22. JLR

    He's a convicted criminal, and I don't value the opinions of criminals.

    March 8, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  23. JST

    I am not sure I see the issue here. He described the Tea Party in accurate terms. It also seems that we are moving towards a police state because obviously this statement wasn't meant for the public. In my mind, James O'Keefe should be in court waiting on charges for invasion of privacy. Last time I checked recording a conversation without the other parties consent is illegal in most states... But I guess everything is fair game for a publicity stunt?

    March 8, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Oceanside Kid

    Please god don't let this kid become a politician!

    March 8, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. RAMBLE3144

    CNN, you forgot to say "raises eyebrows"!

    March 8, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
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