Update: NPR has released emails corroborating its claims in this story.
James O’Keefe has posted to his Project Veritas website a second recording of conversations between his group of pranksters posing as Muslim potential NPR donors and NPR executive Betsy Lilely, NPR’s director of institutional giving.
In a recorded phone call uploaded as a YouTube video, Liley, already on administrative leave over her comments in the first O’Keefe video, discusses with a member of O’Keefe’s gang how he might proceed in making a donation of $5 million. The video — dubbed with audio of the phone call — repeats for emphasis the portions of the call in which Liley seems to suggest that NPR can keep the group’s donations anonymous from the government.
“It sounded like you’re saying that NPR would be able to shield us from a government audit, is that correct?” the actor, posing as “Ibrahim Kasaam” of the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center, says at one point.
“I think that is the case, especially if you were anonymous and I can inquire about that.”
The two discuss the process behind anonymous donations in detail over the course of the phone call, with Liley assuring that such donations are only known by a handful of top NPR executives.
Liley repeatedly hedges in the call that she will refer questions to NPR’s legal counsel.
“Kasaam” also asks what they can expect from their donation, at which point Liley explains that donations cannot influence news coverage.
“It doesn’t allow a direction,” she says when asked whether money can support specific coverage of news. “Kasaam” follows up by asking if it can at least influence the “magnitude of coverage”
“Well even for that, that again is a news decision,” Liley answers. “So if Warren Buffet wanted to give us 100 million dollars and he wanted us just to cover foot care, podiatry, we probably couldn’t do 100 million dollars of podiatry coverage in the next 100 years right? So that would probably be hard for us to take.”
Liley added that “A lot of people have interest in specific areas, including institutions, so they give us support in that area but we can only accept it to the point it matches our news judgment.”
The Daily Caller reports that O’Keefe also revealed emails in which Lilely writes that she’s “awaiting a draft of a gift agreement from our legal counsel and will share it when I have it.”
This appears to counter a previous statement by NPR in response to the first Project Veritas video released on Wednesday. That statement, given to reporters by NPR’s senior vice president of marketing, communication, and external affairs said, “The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept. In the first video, the phony foundation indicated it received funding from the Muslim Brotherhood and Project Veritas has sought from the beginning to embarrass NPR by suggesting the public broadcaster did not find the association problematic.”
Asked by TPM about the reported correspondences, NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher said via e-mail that the agreement “never got beyond the internal drafting stage - and was never sent. Period.”
“We stand by our statement: we repeatedly refused to accept their fake check,” Christopher wrote. “They pressed us over and over to physically come to NPR and drop off a check. We repeatedly refused this.”
[Update: NPR has since released emails corroborating its claim.]
In a statement to the press on Thursday, NPR said Liley’s suggestion that donations are shielded from audits is “inaccurate” and that they did not stand by her remarks in either video released so far by O’Keefe:
“The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audio tapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR’s gift practices. All donations - anonymous and named - are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations.
Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter.
No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day.”
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.