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. Michael Burnett

    I find it really sad that this guy James O'Keefe is all over the board in just trying to find someone to hurt. It just doesn't even seem like he's even making a point other than hay I can trap you into saying something damning and post it to boost my pathetic career. Just goes to show you that you can sell anything in America as long as someones willing to buy it.

    March 8, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  2. Jonathan

    Fox News is nothing but Creedy's black bag of lies.

    March 8, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  3. Noah

    So, is it okay to talk about the Tea Party being racist and scary now that we've sacrificed our pariah?

    March 8, 2011 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  4. Laviro

    Why does this article throw around a loaded concept like "conservative activist" like it's always a given? When I read a CNN story about Michael Moore, I don't see a giant article with "liberal activist" pasted all over it. All I see is an article about Michael Moore, with no label attached to it. So why does this article have a label? It doesn't even mention O'Keefe's name until like the third paragraph. Up until then it only refers to him as a "conservative activist" which is an extremely loaded concept, and it leads me to believe that CNN is allowing the fact that O'Keefe almost caught them get in the way of writing a proper article about him, free of loaded terminology and labels.

    March 8, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. Brian

    But the tea party IS scary.

    March 8, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Jason

    How did that wack job get out of jail so quickly after SPYING on a US Senator?

    March 8, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  7. pkfops

    James O'Keefe is a dork.

    March 8, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Start a movement to fully fund NPr.

    March 8, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. Kritz

    Schiller's comments were clearly impolitic, and for that reason he should be disciplined by NPR.

    However, "impolitic" doesn't equal "untrue" and to deny the strand of Islamophobia and simple racism, hate, anger, and disgust that runs through the tea party movement - both the genuine grassroots variety and that manufactured by political opportunists - is to deny reality.

    Also, given O'Keefe's track record of falsifying evidence, I wouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that the interview even took place the way he describes it. He is, after all, a well known liar.

    March 8, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  10. AJ

    The Tea Party is both racist and scary. Its membership is OVERWHELMING caucasian males, and its policies are uniformly against the interest of minorities. The Tea Party platform IS scary, because it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding relative to our democratic principles, our Constitution, and even the Tea Party itself.

    The same opinion could be expressed about MANY groups in our country, on both the right and the left. Did we already forget about Timothy McVey and the Minutemen? How about the KKK and the Black Panthers? And I am sure there are dozens of equally scary and racist organizations out there. It is a free country ... it is legal to be racist and scary.

    Seriously, must one be an opinion-less eunuch to work for NPR?

    March 8, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  11. f

    NPR took this hook line and sinker. They deserved to be fired. Defund NPR

    March 8, 2011 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  12. Rachael

    It is scary and disturbing that James O'Keefe is able to film NPR executives without their knowledge, cause them to be put on leave and contribute to the campaign against federal funding for public broadcasting. NPR is a wonderful news source and public broadcasting, including NPR, a nation treasure that deserves more funding, not less. We absolutely need publically funded media in the US to protect us from the for profit media that is already too powerful! I also agree with Ron Schiller that the Tea Party is racist and scary! Ron Schiller needs to be removed from leave and restored to his position immediately. If there is any way to prosecute James O'Keefe it must be done. The Tea Party represents a small minority of US Citizens and there is nothing worng with saying it is bad for our country. These underhanded tactics ar a perfect example of why! I am truly frightened to hear this news and concerned that the US will soon be under the thumb of this racist, scary minority party!

    March 8, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  13. Paul NYC

    I can't wait for this O'Keefe clown to get his. What goes around comes around. You can't escape that.

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  14. gate

    CNN, you forgot to mention that he was arrested on felony charges for his little wiretap prank. Also he is on 3 years probation for that. He had better watch his half-wit vigilantism or he will end up in the big house. They don't take kindly to wimpy silver spoon GOP brats in there.

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  15. GuyM0ntag

    So he posted a video showing an executive speaking the truth? Not sure what's so bad about that. This little brainwashed kid has no idea he's a pawn in the games of a few ultra-rich plutocrats who pull the strings of the Tea Party puppets. Let's look at the facts: Tea Party is first and foremost in the fight against Mexicans, first and foremost in the fight against Islam, first and foremost in the fight against Teachers and the Education of our Youth, first to fight for unreserved Corporate favoritism, and of course, first to fight for the destruction of the middle class.

    They ARE scary, they ARE racist, and the sooner their supporters wake up and realize they've been duped, the sooner we can vote the REAL crooks out of government and bring in some new blood to actually FIX things in this country.

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  16. tony

    The fraudulent movie maker "went after because" . How wonderful. He came up with a justification for yet more misrepresentation and lying to the American People. Apparently self styled "Christians" crooks like him don't believe the Ninth Commandment applies to them. And then they get interviewed?????

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  17. JG

    I don't know why people like O'Keefe are given even 1 minute of our time. He falls into the "too sleezy for words" category. Let's just be done with him.

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. brison

    are we seriously going to take this guys word for it, the same guy that completely lied about acorn?

    March 8, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Now you know how we feel about PETA, Greenpeace, NOW, Unions, etc. I think we have a little more work to do to catch up with targeting done by leftists groups.

    March 8, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  20. dave

    the tea party is racist and scary

    March 8, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  21. Tam

    This guy even looks scary.

    March 8, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  22. Mike

    NPR is an objective and open minded news source. The right wing wants biased news that never criticizes or exposes their bigoted and extreme views. These right wing nuts are leading this country to hell.

    March 8, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. joe

    people are entitled to their opinions, even if they do work for the news

    March 8, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  24. Patrick from Minnesota

    Shouldn't this guy be in prison for illegally wiretapping a senator's office?

    March 8, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  25. Mike

    NPR is racist and has no right receiving public money. this orginization is such a libral think tank and socialistic organization. What you seeing is everything NPR stands for, dont belive these goons, they just got caught with their pants down being who they are.

    March 8, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
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