Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NPR Cans Exec After Bombshell Tape

By David Weigel

That, from the new statement from NPR's Dana Rehm, is the shoe that took all day to drop. The entire statement, which also clarifies that Schiller decided to leave before the sting occurred:

The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed. 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.

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.    

Prior to the lunch meeting presented in the edited video, Ron Schiller had informed NPR that he was resigning from his position to take a new job. His resignation was announced publicly last week, and he was expected to depart in May. While we review this situation, he has been placed on administrative leave.

David Folkenflik has more, including the key detail that the the "administrative leave" is, yes, confirmation that Schiller is gone. Schiller's first day at the Aspen Institute is April 1; I've checked in with the institute just to make sure he's still starting there.

(Story continues below)
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NPR executives caught on tape bashing conservatives and Tea Party, touting liberals

By Matthew Boyle - The Daily Caller

A man who appears to be a National Public Radio senior executive, Ron Schiller, has been captured on camera savaging conservatives and the Tea Party movement.

“The current Republican Party, particularly 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,” declared Schiller, the head of NPR’s nonprofit foundation, who last week announced his departure for the Aspen Institute.

In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give up to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”

On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, 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.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said.

Watch the video:

O’Keefe’s organization set up a fake website for MEAC to lend credibility to the fictitious group. On the site, MEAC states that its mission is combating “intolerance to spread acceptance of Sharia across the world.” At their lunch, the man posing as Kasaam told Schiller that MEAC contributes to a number of Muslim schools across the U.S. “Our organization was originally founded by a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood in America actually,” he says.

Schiller doesn’t blink. Instead, he assumes the role of fan. “I think what we all believe is if we don’t have Muslim voices in our schools, on the air,” Schiller says, “it’s the same thing we faced as a nation when we didn’t have female voices.”

When O’Keefe’s two associates pressed him into the topic, Schiller decried U.S. media coverage of Egypt’s uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak, especially talk of the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence on the protests and future of Egypt. Schiller said that is what he is “most disappointed by in this country, which is that the educated, so-called elite in this country is too small a percentage of the population, so that you have this very large un-educated part of the population that carries these ideas.”

When the man pretending to be Kasaam suggests to Schiller that “Jews do kind of control the media or, I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interests in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel,” Schiller does not rebut him or stop eating. He just nods his head slightly.

The man posing as Kasaam then joked that his friends call NPR, “National Palestinian Radio,” because, according to him, NPR is the only media outlet that covers Palestinians’ perspective. Schiller laughed.

When the ersatz Islamists declare they’re “not too upset about maybe a little bit less Jew influence of money into NPR,” Schiller responds by saying he doesn’t find “Zionist or pro-Israel” ideas at NPR, “even among funders. I mean it’s there in those who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR.”

Liley chimes in at this point to add that, “even one of our biggest funders who you’ll hear on air, The American Jewish World Service, may not agree with us. I visited with them recently and they may not agree with what we put on the air but they find us important to them and, sometimes it’s not that easy to hear what we say and what our reporters say, but they still think NPR is important to support.”

Schiller added that “they [the American Jewish World Service] are really looking for a fair point of view and many Jewish organizations are not.”

Later in the lunch, Schiller explains that NPR would be better positioned free of federal funding. “Well frankly, it is clear that we would be better off in the long-run without federal funding,” he says. “The challenge right now is that if we lost it all together we would have a lot of stations go dark.”

When one of O’Keefe’s associates asked, “How confident are you, with all the donors that are available, if they should pull the funding right now that you would survive?,” Schiller answered this way: “Yes, NPR would definitely survive and most of the stations would survive.”

That is precisely the opposite answer Schiller’s boss, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation), gave at a press conference Monday in Washington. “We take [federal defunding] very, very seriously,” she said. “It would have a profound impact we believe on our ability – of public broadcasting’s ability – to deliver news and information.”

At the Café Milano lunch, Schiller said he’s “very proud of” how NPR fired Juan Williams. “What NPR stood for is non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news and our feeling is that if a person expresses his or her opinion, which anyone is entitled to do in a free society, they are compromised as a journalist,” he said. “They can no longer fairly report.”

With that, Schiller once again directly contradicted NPR’s public statements. At her Monday press conference, Vivian Schiller apologized for the way it handled the Williams matter. “We handled the situation badly,” she said. “We acted too hastily and we made some mistakes. I made some mistakes.”

Republicans tee off on NPR after latest O’Keefe video

By Matthew Boyle - The Daily Caller

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, ripped National Public Radio (NPR) on Tuesday after NPR foundation’s nonprofit president Ron Schiller was caught on video saying the radio network and most of its member stations would survive without federal funding.

“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 in an e-mail to TheDC. “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.”

The NPR and public broadcasting defunding debate has heated up as of late, and the new video conservative activist James O’Keefe released emboldens their cause. Playing off Schiller’s comment that NPR would survive without federal funding, Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said “We agree that NPR and PBS would be fine without taxpayer subsidies.”

DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, recently introduced a bill in the Senate to defund NPR and PBS.

“Forcing taxpayers to give public broadcasting hundreds of millions of dollars makes little sense when we’re facing a $14 trillion debt and there are already thousands of educational and entertainment choices in the media,” DeMint said in an email to TheDC.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, told TheDC “it’s amazing, the attitude that these guys have,” and their “arrogance and condescension” is “just amazing.”

Lamborn went on to say that he thinks this might be the end of the debate on federal funding for public broadcasting.

“Well, I sure hope so [that the debate ends now],” Lamborn said in a phone interview. “If they, themselves, admit that they’d be better off without federal funding, there’s no further defenses for them to throw out. Remove them from the federal budget and be done with it.”

Cantor maintains that this video is evidence that the federal government should defund NPR and all public broadcasting.

“At a time when our government borrows 40 cents of every dollar that it spends, we must find ways to cut spending and live within our means,” Cantor said. “This video clearly highlights the fact that public broadcasting doesn’t need taxpayer funding to thrive, and I hope that admission will lead to a bipartisan consensus to end these unnecessary federal subsidies.”