NPR is still managing the fallout from a hidden camera prank by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, but the station is making it clear they’re not happy with the executive caught on film, NPR Foundation president Ron Schiller.
According to NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm, Schiller has been placed on administrative leave in response to the incident. She added in an e-mailed statement that his already-announced decision to leave NPR for a job at the Aspen Institute was unrelated to the O’Keefe video and that the public broadcaster had been informed of the move before the fateful lunch meeting with a fake Muslim group.
“His resignation was announced publicly last week, and he was expected to depart in May,” Rehm said. “While we review this situation, he has been placed on administrative leave.”
Rehm also distanced the news organization from Schiller’s filmed statements, which included his assertion that the Tea Party was made up of “seriously, seriously racist people.” He also remained silent while actors posing as prospective donors described a Jewish conspiracy to control the media. This was the second time today NPR condemned Schiller’s remarks, putting out a statement earlier saying the organization was “appalled” by his conduct in the video.
“The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed,” Rehm said. “NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day - in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell.”
While the video contained a number of embarrassing passages, perhaps the most directly damaging was Schiller asserting that NPR could survive — and indeed, might be better off — without federal funding. Republicans in Congress were already fighting to defund the network before the video emerged and already GOP lawmakers, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are using the footage to bolster their position. The latest statement from NPR addressed these attacks directly.
“The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole.”
Update: NPR confirms to TPM that NPR institutional giving director Betsy Lilely, who appeared in the video as well, is on administration leave.
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.