Republicans are seizing on James O’Keefe’s hidden camera prank against NPR executives to bolster their calls to defund the news organization. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) became the highest ranking lawmaker to weigh in on Tuesday, putting out a press release slamming the “disturbing” video that featured NPR Foundation president Ron Schilling calling Tea Partiers “seriously racist,” remaining silent while a fake Muslim group accused Jews of controlling the media, and suggesting that NPR might be better off with out 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 a statement. “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.”
In the video Schiller says that NPR might “better off in the long-run without federal funding,” since it would allow them to become more independent. The House passed a bill last month that would cut off NPR’s funding and Senate Republicans recently introduced similar legislation as well.
Added Cantor: “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. 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.”
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who has been one of the most prominent Republicans behind efforts to defund NPR, told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York he was “amazed at the condescension and arrogance that we saw in the sting video” and also cited Schiller’s comments as further evidence the organization could do without federal backing.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.