NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned from the news organization Wednesday morning in response to a hidden camera prank targeting NPR Foundation president Ron Schiller, adding another high-profile notch to James O’Keefe’s belt.
“The Board accepted Vivian’s resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years,” read a statement from NPR Board Chairman Dave Edwards.
Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian), president of the NPR Foundation, had already submitted his resignation on Tuesday evening after the network had placed him on leave and released a statement saying they were “appalled” by his behavior on a tape with a group of phony prospective donors slamming Tea Partiers, nodding politely as conspiracy theories about Jews in the media were floated, and suggesting NPR would be better off without federal funding. Another NPR executive in the video, Betsy Liley, director of institutional giving, is also on administrative leave.
The video proved an uncomfortable and unexpected crisis for NPR, which was already under heavy fire from Republicans in Congress who are pushing legislation to cut funding to the public broadcaster. Majority Leader Eric Cantor seized upon Ron Schiller’s remarks in the video yesterday as proof that NPR could survive without federal dollars while critics pointed to Schiller’s numerous denunciations of the Tea Party as evidence the news organization was biased towards the left. Ron Schiller was not part of the news division of the organization.
Vivian Schiller, who took her position in 2009, had recently weathered another difficult episode in the organization’s history, firing commentator Juan Williams over comments that some critics felt were derogatory towards Muslims. Williams has since taken a position with FOX News, and many conservatives claimed that his firing was inappropriate and more cause to defund NPR. In a speech to the National Press Club this year, Schiller admitted, “We handled the situation badly. We acted too hastily and we made some mistakes, and I made some mistakes.”
Williams, for his part, ripped NPR on Fox News over the latest video.
“This was an act of incredible condescension,” he said on Fox Nation, according to the Huffington Post. “They will say things to your face about how there’s no liberal orthodoxy at NPR, how they play it straight, but now you see it for what it is. They prostitute themselves for money.”
According to NPR, Vivian Schiller will be succeeded by Joyce Slocum, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, who will serve as an interim CEO while the board finds a permanent replacement.
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.