By David A. Patten
An undercover video that captured National Public Radio’s top fundraising executive disparaging Republicans, Christians, evangelicals, tea-party members, gun owners, Jews, and Americans lacking elite educational backgrounds has touched off a strong backlash across the cultural and political spectrum, fueling renewed calls for Congress to yank NPR’s $90 million in annual taxpayer funding.
Conservatives issued new demands for NPR’s defunding, after the secret video emerged that showed Ron Schiller, who was NPR Foundation president and vice president for development of NPR when the video was recorded Feb. 22, making remarks that various groups found to be offensive.
The video came from conservative muckraking activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. O’Keefe is the same activist whose undercover video of ACORN spurred Congress to defund that group.
In the new video, recorded Feb. 22, Schiller is heard telling two men posing as Muslim donors with extremist ties that the Republican Party has been “hijacked” by the grass-roots tea party movement.
Schiller tells them the current GOP is “not 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.”
The remarks appeared to confirm the worst fears of many conservatives that taxpayer-supported NPR harbors a deep bias against the values of fly-over country Americans.
In his meeting with the two undercover activists trained by O’Keefe, who said they were Muslims looking to distribute $5 million, Schiller traces many of the nation’s problems back to the fact that “the educated, so-called elite of this country is too small a percentage of the population.”
He also states that he perceives Zionist, or pro-Israeli, bias in American newspapers.
“I mean it’s there in those who own newspapers, obviously,” he tells his potential benefactors. “But no one owns NPR.”
Schiller, who was accompanied at the meeting by another high-level NPR fund-raiser, described himself as “very proud” of NPR’s controversial firing of news commentator Juan Williams, despite the fact that NPR CEO Vivian Schiller — no relation to Ron Schiller – apologized for how the Williams matter was handled.
Also in the video, Schiller remarked: “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.”
The timing of the video’s emergence could hardly be worse for NPR. It already faces a tea-party-led push to yank its taxpayer funding, in part due to perceived left-wing bias. NPR quickly released a statement Tuesday saying it was “appalled” by Schiller’s statements.
According to NPR, Schiller announced last week that he was leaving the organization to join the Aspen Institute, a seminar and think-tank closer to his Colorado home.
That did not mollify Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who blasted Schiller’s remarks Tuesday and urged that all taxpayer funding of NPR be eliminated.
“This guy, he not only tolerates Jew-baiting, he expresses animus against Christians, he sides with the Muslim Brotherhood… He’s very proud that Juan Williams has been fired, yet at the end of the day, he considers liberals to be better educated and fairer than conservatives. That says it all in my mind,” Donohue told Newsmax.
Regarding Schiller’s suggestion that evangelicals are not to be called Christians, Donohue protested: “He must have thought they were like another species. I mean, I’m Catholic, and I consider evangelicals my brothers.”
In one of the most striking passages in the videotape, Schiller appears to suggest NPR would be better off without taxpayer dollars.
“Frankly, it is very clear in the long run we’d be better off in the long run without federal funding,” Schiller says. “And the challenge right now is if we lost it all together we’d have a lot of stations go dark.”
Schiller nods in agreement during the video as one of his prospective patrons refers to the “radical, racist, Islamaphobic, tea party people.”
Schiller, then replies: “Exactly.”
Donohue told Newsmax that the controversy over the Williams firing, and now the remarks by Schiller, indicate a serious problem with NPR’s corporate culture.
“When patterns develop, when you see it over and over again, and it becomes part of the culture, then clearly you know there is something rotten from the top down,” he said.
Donohue added: “When you’re asking that taxpayers to pay this man’s salary, and any pretense they have of objectivity is totally blown away, that is the end of the story.”
Donohue had plenty of company Tuesday in expressing outrage over the NPR video:
- Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told Newsmax that while Schiller is free to express his opinion, NPR “facilitates the advancement of that stereotyping and that type of maligning of a large portion of the American public with taxpayer dollars.” He said Americans for years “have said we’re tired of their left-wing agenda that’s being promulgated and being promoted on the taxpayer dime. And that’s what it comes down to.”
- The video provoked a sharp rebuke from tea party leaders. “Mr. Schiller himself candidly admits in the video that NPR doesn’t need federal funding, and welcomes the opportunity to slant their reporting without the oversight of the taxpayer,” Mark Meckler, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement. “…Let’s take his advice and pass legislation that would defund the clearly biased news organization that is out of touch with Americans across the country.”
- Tim Graham, media analyst for the conservative watchdog Media Research Council, told Newsmax: “This is the latest outrage that underlines how desperately this system needs to be removed from taxpayer funding. This system has so much contempt for the middle America taxpayer that pays their lavish salaries, it is time for this to be defunded. It is way past time.”
- Virginia Republican and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent an e-mail to The Daily Caller stating: “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.”