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

    So....he got caught telling the truth? That's pretty much all I'm getting out of this. Whats the problem?

    March 8, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Robert Paulson

    That's funny. There are tons of video of Tea Party members calling everyone fascist, communist, etc. There is even a video of Tea Party members protesting outside a fund-raiser held by the Muslim community. During this protest Tea Party members shouted that the Muslim Americans were rapist and to go home. This was in California and can be seen on youtube.

    March 8, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  3. Geoff

    So shoot the guy for sating the obvious...

    March 8, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  4. Dyanisme

    What is it about free speech that scares everyone? All the NPR exec did was to speak his opinion. If that's going to become an issue, then 99.9% of FOX executives and on-air staff are going to be in huge trouble.

    March 8, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. db

    People who join the Tea Party are either filthy or stupid. I said it. Feel free to take away my funding.

    March 8, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Mark in Tennesee

    The truth often has a sting to it. At what point did Mr. Schiller misrepresent the truth?

    March 8, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. ART

    Mr schiller is absolutely correct in his assesment of the tea (baggers) party, nothing more than a bunch of racist rednecks with silly hats.

    March 8, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. JLR

    Where is the news story here? Many people share Schiller's view.

    March 8, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Vince Capece

    I'm tired of O'Keefe and the Tea Party and all of the Right-Wingers trying to tell the rest of us how to live. Get some genuine Left-leaning propogandist out there and retaliate! Tell me that the GOP and Tea Partiers are above coersion? Politicians are politicians and they will do anything for a buck...even selling out votes. I'm just tired of this. NPR is slanted far less than the right-wing news which everyone on the Tea Party takes as Gospel....even when it's proven that it's wrong.

    Yes, NPR could report much better without the constant threat of taking away government money, but NPR needs the money. This is the best news organization in the United States...and if they do lean left, that's only because that's where WE should be leaning.

    March 8, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Mark

    NPR is liberal-biased. Educators are liberal-biased. No Subsidies for anyone! Sometimes it's sink or swim, that's what built this country.

    March 8, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Tim

    I wonder if "Chad" enjoyed the caviar he had with his champaign.

    March 8, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. JRev

    Um, I'm pretty sure if ANYONE had a hidden camera around them, they would say something provocative/controversial at some point, especially when provoked on purpose. It's really not hard to do. O'Keefe is best viewed with a grain of salt and a margarita on the Daily Show and/or Colbert Report.

    March 8, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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