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NPR Exec Recorded Disparaging Conservative Groups


The top fundraiser for NPR, who had already announced that he was leaving NPR for another job, officially resigned last night. A videotape became public showing him disparaging conservative groups during what he thought was a fundraising meeting. The video was secretly recorded during a lunch with two people who claimed to be eager to contribute to public radio.

NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Ron Schiller was head of NPR fundraising until yesterday, but last month, he got duped. A couple of men purporting to represent a Muslim charity invited Schiller and another NPR official to lunch. They said they wanted to discuss a potential $5 million gift to NPR, to help the news organization withstand the potential loss of federal funding. A hidden video camera captured Schiller saying that the Republican Party has been hijacked.

(Soundbite of video)

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

ABRAMSON: Schiller says the Tea Party, in particular, is, quote, "not just Islamaphobic, but I mean xenophobic. I mean, basically they believe in sort of white, middle America, gun toting - I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people," unquote.

The two fake donors, who are really members of James O'Keefe's group, try to bait Schiller several times, suggesting that Jewish groups try to influence NPR's coverage in favor of Israel. Schiller says he feels no pressure from Jewish groups. But then one of the faux funders says that NPR is one of the few places that dares to present a pro-Palestinian point of view.

Mr. "IBRAHIM KASSAM": We used to call it National Palestinian Radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ABRAMSON: The would-be funder jokes he used to call it National Palestinian Radio. Ron Schiller laughs, and his colleague Betsy Liley joins in, saying that's good. I like that. Schiller also explains that NPR would be better off in the long run doing without federal funding. That's despite the fact that NPR has been fighting to fend off an abrupt halt in funding, saying that could kill off some smaller public stations.

National Public quickly condemned Ron Schiller's remarks. NPR President Vivian Schiller - no relation - said Ron Schiller's remarks should not reflect on NPR's work.

Ms. VIVIAN SCHILLER (NPR CEO): His statements are completely anathema to everything that NPR stands for, and to quality independent journalism, completely.

ABRAMSON: The video was posted on the website of James O'Keefe's Project Veritas, as part of a campaign to, in his words, investigate NPR. O'Keefe had previously posed as a pimp, soliciting grants from a community organizing group called ACORN. Tape from that encounter helped lead to the end of federal funding for ACORN, and then to bankruptcy.

The House voted last month to cut off federal funding for NPR and public broadcasting in general. Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado, said yesterday, quote, "I am amazed at the condescension and arrogance that we saw in the video. The evidence is overwhelming, and the video is condemning. NPR does not need taxpayer dollars." Other House members made similar statements, but would not talk on tape.

Groups critical of NPR were most bothered by Schiller's apparent contempt for conservatives. Tim Graham is with the advocacy group Media Research Center, which supports an end to federal support of NPR.

Mr. TIM GRAHAM (Media Research Center): I'm outraged by the idea that someone would suggest that most of America - that pays for a chunk of public broadcasting with its tax dollars - are under-educated and, you know, conservatives aren't as fair and balanced as liberals, and a bunch of the things that come out of Mr. Schiller's mouth.

ABRAMSON: Many of those who are most upset by the video had already announced their dislike of NPR. The question now is whether the incident will erode support in the Senate, which was not expected to endorse a total cut in funding.

Larry Abrahamson, NPR News, Washington.

SHAPIRO: And we should also note that Ron Schiller informed NPR last week he would be leaving the company to take a new job. Last night, his resignation became effectively immediately. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.