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
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. …