Conservative activist James O’Keefe made waves for NPR yesterday, just in time for the budget debate in Congress. O’Keefe—the man behind the 2009 sting videos against Acorn, a left-leaning association of community organizations—released a video on his Project Veritas website showing NPR’s head of fundraising calling the Tea Party movement racist. “Not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic. I mean basically, they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun toting. I mean, it's scary,” Ron Schiller says on the video. “They're seriously racist, racist people.” He also said NPR would be better off without federal funding. The video was secretly recorded during a luncheon the executive believed was with Muslim donors—they actually were Project Veritas operatives. Schiller, who had already given notice he would resign to take another job before the video went viral, officially ended his tenure at NPR last night.
This morning, another bombshell hit. NPR’s president and CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron) resigned, reportedly forced out by the news organization’s board. This is not the first bit of controversy for the former CEO. About six months ago, Vivian Schiller and NPR came under fire for handling Juan Williams’s firing poorly.
This newest drama comes as funding for public broadcasting is at risk of getting cut by Congress’s budget shears. “This disturbing video makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote in a statement yesterday. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]
U.S. News blogger Leslie Marshall thinks the recent drama should not be such a big deal. She writes, “So what if Mr. Schiller said what he said? He doesn’t speak for NPR, and he doesn’t program the network; he was in charge of fundraising for them,” she writes, adding that it’s no coincidence the video came out during the budget debate. “Mr. O’Keefe’s demonizing of Acorn and now NPR shows how far he will go to get the right their way.”
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