Controversy Swirls Around NPR Again as Calls For Defunding Mount (UPDATED)
Is National Public Radio finally on the brink of losing its government funding? The firing of Juan Williams was the first bungle that indicated a surprising inability to grasp to the new ideological political dynamics of polarized America and the dangers it would mean to its funding. And now there’s the case of a controversial conservative videographer activist who who has scored this time.
How bad it is? In a major public relations debacle such as this you might see a resignation of the shills.
In this one, NPR is seeing resignations from its Schillers. The NPR blog reports:
NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned, NPR just announced.
This follows yesterday’s news that then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was videotapped slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding during a lunch with men posing as members of a Muslim organization (they were working with political activist James O’Keefe on a “sting.”)
Vivian Schiller quickly condemned Ron Schiller’s comments, and he moved up an already-announced decision to leave NPR and resigned effectively immediately. But Ron Schiller’s gaffe followed last fall’s firing of NPR political analyst Juan Williams, for which Vivian Schiller came under harsh criticism.
This controversy is already generating predictable ideological responses. NPR’s longtime foes (who embrace mega ideological talk shows carried on commercial networks) are seizing on this latest stumble, which basically gives fuel to those who’ve sought NPR’s defunding for years their ongoing narrative of NPR as a hotbed of liberalism.
Marc Ambinder puts it into a perspective that you’re not getting at present on many outraged left and right ideological websites:
In the video, Ron Schiller, the head of NPR’s nonprofit organization — and someone who last week announced he’d be joining the Aspen Institute come April — disparaged the GOP and the tea party movement as the undercover videographers discussed donating up to $5 million to NPR in an effort to promote Muslim views.
“The current Republican Party, particularly 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,” Schiller said on the video.
He also said NPR would be better off without federal financing — funding which Republicans have been trying to strip from the radio network for some time now.
Schiller’s attacks on the GOP and the tea party are sure to spark more criticism that NPR slants left. NPR has weathered a barrage of such criticism since October, when it fired journalist Juan Williams for expressing personal sentiments on Muslims and air security as a Fox News contributor.
Since then, conservatives have rallied around the idea of de-funding NPR. The House passed a broad spending bill on Feb. 19 that would eliminate public-broadcasting funding for the rest of the fiscal year, but Senate Democrats have rejected it. Taxpayer dollars continue to flow to NPR and PBS, both subsidiaries of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), at last year’s levels. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a stand-alone Senate bill last week to defund the CPB.
The new video is already causing a stir. Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party membership organization, e-mailed its supporters today about defunding NPR, in light of O’Keefe’s expose.
NPR announced Tuesday afternoon that Schiller had been placed on administrative leave
(This was the first Schiller to go. Ron Schiller resigned “effective immediately” when the controversy broke.)
It’s unlikely that this video will result in the defunding of NPR. In the debate over a longer-term spending bill, Senate Democrats probably won’t give in to House GOP demands that public broadcast funding be eliminated. When sides come to the bargaining table, this is a light chip that will be brushed aside as Republicans and Democrats try to narrow the $50 billion divide between their favored spending levels. And it certainly helps NPR that these comments were made
But the video hits all the right buttons in the defunding discussion. It resonates with ideological enmities by placing liberal politics at the scene of a fundraising discussion, serves up fodder for anyone who already suspects NPR wants to promote radical-Muslim, pro-Palestinian views, and, most importantly, normalizes the view that NPR would be fine without federal dollars.
In other words: it becomes yet another a rant topic in an ever going, ever growing ideological and partisan war. Choose the ideological talk show of your preference today get the spin on this today that reinforces and reaffirms your existing viewpoint.
O’”Keefe says there was a specific reason this video trap was set:
Filmmaker James O’Keefe said the idea for the sting stemmed from an incident in October when NPR fired analyst Juan Williams after he said he got scared when people wore Muslim garb on airplanes.
“My colleague Shaughn Adeleye who posed as one of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood was pretty offended with what happened with Juan Williams and he suggested looking into NPR after that incident back in the fall,” O’Keefe said to CNN Correspondent Brian Todd on Tuesday.
“My other colleague Simon Templar came up with the idea to have a Muslim angle since Juan Williams was fired due to his comments. So we decided to see if there was a greater truth or hidden truth amongst these reporters and journalists and executives.”
Expect more O’Keefe videos, more applause from his ideological supporters, more caution on the part of his targets — and the ideological war to continue to accelerate.
MSNBC’s must read First Read wonders where this is taking us:
*** Is this where we’re headed in journalism? Conservative filmmaker/provocateur James O’Keefe has collected another liberal scalp: NPR. “The latest round of conservative attacks on public broadcasting got fresh ammunition with the release of a hidden-camera video of an NPR executive calling the tea party racist and saying the network would be better off without federal money anyway,” the AP writes. “The video was posted Tuesday by James O’Keefe, the same activist whose undercover videos have targeted other groups opposed by conservatives, like the community organizing group ACORN and Planned Parenthood.” Of course, this comes just days after a liberal Web site embarrassed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) by impersonating David Koch. Are these kinds of ideological stings where we’re now headed in journalism? It’s worth considering that they’re more about feeding raw meat to the base — and confirming stereotypes — than they are uncovering any GREATER truth, no?
UPDATE: Cokie Roberts defends NPR: