Sometime in February, National Public Radio’s Senior Vice President for Fundraising was caught on tape making a host of nasty comments about the Tea Party and its members. While the tape may be damning to both the NPR executive and the federally funded organization, the tape’s creator, James O’Keefe has a history of doctoring tapes to inflict the most amount of damage.
NPR executive Ron Schiller, along with NPR’s Director of Institutional Giving, Betsy Liley, were lured to a lunch with potential donors, who were actually working with Mr. O’Keefe. The donors claimed to represent a fictitious group called the Muslim Education Action Center, which O’Keefe says was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and were there to consider offering NPR a $5 million contribution to the organization.
Schiller correctly turned down the money and disputed a statement that NPR coverage is slanted, saying that “no one owns NPR.” However, the NPR executive was also caught saying a host of accusatory and defamatory statements about the Tea Party and its members. According to Mr. Schiller, Tea Party Members 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.”
Conservatives are currently using Mr. Schiller’s statements, including one where he claims that NPR would be “better off without federal funding,” to try and improve their chances of defunding both NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While Mr. Schiller has no connection with NPR’s news division, and his words about NPR being better off with federal money were taken out of context, having an NPR executive say these kind of disparaging remarks does not look good for a supposedly unbiased organization. Mr. Schiller has resigned recently in an unrelated manner and NPR has already spoken out against the remarks, but the full fallout is yet to be seen.
Of course, this may not be the end of the story. Mr. O’Keefe has a history of less than stellar behavior, most of which surrounds doctoring tapes or trying to manipulate situations to put his enemies in the worst light possible. He even got arrested for trying to tap a Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.
Could the remarks of a single NPR executive, who no longer even works there, discredit the organization enough to help get its funding pulled? Or are more and more people getting fed up with O’Keefe and his occasionally illegal antics? Do Mr. Shiller’s statements about the anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party make sense, or is he just on of those “elites living in an ivory tower,” as Rep. Doug Lamborn has said.