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. North Star State

    Nice espiagnage work by the Teapartiers.....

    March 8, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  2. Tony Zito

    I am scratching my head trying to figure out why you would refer to James O'Keefe as a "conservative activist". That sounds like a man who is someone to reckon with in serious politics. Surely the editors of CNN know this man has produced nothing but deceptively edited baloney on at least two occasions. It is blatantly obvious that he is out to do in his enemies with lies, big lies and more lies. He is not an activist, he is a sleazebag. Why are you rewarding him with coverage? Has CNN decided that it has to swim in the sewer in order to compete?

    March 8, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  3. AndrewsAFB

    Ron Schiller spoke nothing but the truth and what the vast majority of reasonable Americans already think about the Tea Party.

    March 8, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  4. Caliconor

    And now James O'Keefe is the Michael Moore of right wingers.

    March 8, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. Justin

    Well the Tea Party IS "racist" and "scary" so not really sure what the problem is.

    March 8, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  6. bob

    Well if this James O'Keefe wants to be taken seriously maybe he should try something other than a candid camera, punked, hidden camera type thing. He belongs on mtv at best not within the political spectrum. Eat some food get a hair cut and maybe you can look like an adult instead of skinny stick figure trying to act like you work is "ground breaking." What a joke.

    March 8, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  7. Derp Herp

    they barely mention the fact that they were unable to persuade Schiller to accecpt the check, woulda liked more on that.

    March 8, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  8. Barry

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

    March 8, 2011 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  9. Aaron

    The deceitful, sneaky, lying little twirp needs to find a new hobby.

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  10. Sir Craig

    There is real irony in this idiot's choice of web domains: The Project Veritas (a mixing of English and Latin for "The Truth Project")? His whole angle is to try and trip up people into saying or doing something that he can secretly videotape and edit to shreds later. His ACORN video was total garbage, as was his Planned Parenthood videos (conveniently leaving out all the times Planned Parenthood called law enforcement and the FBI on him and his crew). His colleague's name: Simon Templar? That's not even original – that's the name of the fictional British character in "The Saint." This guy is an amoral conservative jerk who wouldn't know ethics if it smashed him in the face.

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  11. truth2power

    But... the Tea Party IS racist and scary!

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  12. LouAz

    This con artist circus barker is NOT a filmmaker ! DeMille was a filmmaker. Do not lump this constand liar with real filmmakers.

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  13. joe800

    The tea party is absolutely racist.
    Anyone who says otherwise is incapable of admitting that water is wet, fire hot or must be a tea partier....

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  14. George W Smith

    It's funny how suddenly Republicans find themselves on the side of political correctness. Aside from the fact that it was phrased a bit insensitively, there was nothing really untrue about what he said. Whether the Tea Party is racist or not really boils down to a matter of how you, personally, see it. Sure, it might just be his opinion, but this was not a news broadcast - he's entitled to opinions.

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  15. Silence is golden

    So If conservative Tea partiers are allowed to pull shenanigans like this, why can't we call them out for what they are?
    Bigoted and racist.

    March 8, 2011 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  16. Julie S

    Wow .. mainstream media at it again .. the "damaging" ACORN conversation tapes were heavily edited and doctored ... yet there's no mention of that .. hmmm

    March 8, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  17. guitarharry

    Well...politcally correct or not, Schiller was absolutely right; the Tea Party is overloaded with racists, homophobes, and religious zealots. The truth hurts, I guess...

    March 8, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  18. LDV

    How is what Schiller said any different than Fox News constantly yelling about the liberal socialist media, and the "communist" in the White House, etc.? Except that he said it at a private meeting rather than via the constant drone that can be found on Fox News. In the end, I guess only Fox News and its reporters, pundits and so called executives get to be biased and force its opinion on the nation.

    March 8, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  19. Teaparty Areracists

    So the NPR exec says the truth. Thank God for freedom of expression here in the U.S, hope he doesnt get fired from NPR for speaking an honest truth that Tea Partiers and Repbulicans dont care to accept openly for they are full of hate, ignorance on people beyong their own kind and lack world culture.

    The NPR exec obviously has lots of wordly culture and Okeefe is obviously full of hate and is out to venge his two parties trying to radicate these twoparties racist issues.

    March 8, 2011 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  20. Ed

    As a public broadcaster on the TV side, I have to say when NPR's your friend, you don't need enemies.

    March 8, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  21. jpl

    NPR is funded by the American tax payers, some of there "big wigs" earn up to a million a year, again, with your tax dollars, PBS as well. I say this is a great way to trim the fat, stop funding NPR and PBS now. Ron Schiller is a great example of the bias NPR airs on a daily basis. I can only hope that this will open the American taxpayers eyes to what NPR is about, thank you O'keefe, keep up the great work.

    March 8, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  22. Well Duh.

    I don't see the problem here, I agree completely with what he said.

    March 8, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  23. Peter

    In my listening area, the local NPR station is the only place that I can hear in depth local news on the radio. Only one commercial station in my area carries a newscast which is a 3 1/2 minute tabloid in between screaming national talk show hosts. And nothing after 6PM. The local NPR was the only place on the radio I could get local election coverage last election in the evening. If NPR goes away, I might as well throw my radio in the garbage.

    March 8, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  24. Kenneth Rickson

    This changes nothing. The people who listen to NPR will continue to listen. Take a ride up the rest of the radio dial, Yikes!

    March 8, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  25. dwt

    I don't generally like to judge by looks. But that O'Keefe guy looks like a weasel and a flake, and ever since his effort to frame that CNN reporter, I'm convinced that appearance is reality in his case.

    March 8, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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