NPR Executive Calls Tea Party 'Seriously Racist,' Most Americans 'Uneducated'

By Jonsson, Patrik | The Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

NPR Executive Calls Tea Party 'Seriously Racist,' Most Americans 'Uneducated'


Jonsson, Patrik, The Christian Science Monitor


A hidden-camera sting orchestrated by James O'Keefe, who took down ACORN, targeted NPR executive Ron Schiller. It shows him calling the tea party racist and the GOP anti-intellectual. Schiller also suggested that NPR doesn't need federal funding.

A video sting targeting former NPR fund-raising executive Ron Schiller could create political and public-relations problems for the news organization - just as it steels itself for a battle with congressional Republicans over federal funding.

In comments made to a hidden camera, Mr. Schiller called the tea party movement that propelled Republicans to huge congressional gains in the midterm elections "scary" and "seriously racist." In addition, he complained that America did not have enough "educated, so-called elite" citizens, and that the Republican Party was anti- intellectual. Perhaps most damaging, however, was Schiller's statement that NPR would do better without federal funding.

The video is the work of James O'Keefe, the sting artist who took down ACORN in 2009, and it marks the second time in as many months that conservative provocateurs have targeted an organization they see as liberal in a bid to persuade Congress to defund it. In February, O'Keefe protegee Lila Rose released videos that suggested Planned Parenthood employees were willing to collude with sex workers to procure abortions for under-age girls.

An attempt to defund NPR in 1995 failed as listeners bombarded conservative congressmen with phone calls and letters. But Schiller's unguarded comments indicate that NPR itself has inwardly debated whether or not defunding could actually ultimately help the 41-year-old journalism organization's mission.

"My inclination is that cutting off federal funding to NPR might be a good thing, since this kind of political interference is not healthy for the media in general," says Tom Edsall, a professor at Columbia Journalism School.

But he also suggests that government funding might be forcing NPR to be more even-handed than it would otherwise be. "For a place like NPR, being tied to the government may in the end help them to stay fairly objective," he adds.

For its part, NPR has renounced the comments of Schiller, who left NPR on Monday for unrelated reasons, according to officials. "We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for," NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in a statement.

What is the video about?

The video shows Schiller and another NPR fund-raising executive having lunch with two purported members of a fake Muslim organization called the Muslim Education Action Center, which is falsely offering a $5 million gift to NPR. The group also set up a fake website that explicitly stated that it supported the spread of sharia law.

The two actors clearly goad Schiller into making observations, most of which are made after Schiller explicitly takes off his "NPR hat" to give his personal opinion.

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NPR Executive Calls Tea Party 'Seriously Racist,' Most Americans 'Uneducated'
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