March 10, 2011 in Nation/World

NPR president resigns after aide’s tea party remarks

Exit may help protect federal funding
Ben Nuckols Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday under pressure, a day after an undercover video showed one of her executives on a hidden camera calling the tea party racist and saying the news organization would be better off without taxpayer money.

The shake-up comes at a critical time. Conservative politicians are again pressing to end congressional funding for NPR, money the organization said it needs to keep operating public radio and television stations in some of the nation’s smallest communities. The White House defended the funding, saying there remains a need for public broadcasting.

Vivian Schiller also faced criticism for her firing of analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims. She told the Associated Press that the recent remarks made by her fellow executive Ron Schiller were outrageous and unfortunate, and her staying on would only hurt NPR’s fight for federal money.

“I did not want to leave NPR. There’s a lot of pressure on NPR right now,” Vivian Schiller told AP.

On Tuesday, conservative activist James O’Keefe posted a video showing NPR executive Ron Schiller bashing the tea party movement. The video shows two activists, working for O’Keefe, posing as members of a fake Muslim group at a lunch meeting with Ron Schiller, who is not related to Vivian Schiller. The men offered NPR a $5 million donation and engage in a wide-ranging discussion about tea party Republicans, pro-Israel bias in the media and anti-intellectualism.

“The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that is … not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic,” Ron Schiller said in the video, referring to the tea party movement. “They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting – it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

NPR has long been a target of conservatives who claim its programming has a left-wing bias. The budget bill passed by the House last month would end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports programs distributed on NPR and PBS.

Similar efforts to strip funding from public broadcasting in 2005 and in the 1990s were unsuccessful.

Vivian Schiller was criticized for last year’s firing of Williams after he said on Fox News that he feels uncomfortable when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on airplanes. She later said she was sorry for firing Williams over the phone and that he deserved a face-to-face meeting.

“We took a reputational hit around the Juan Williams incident, and this was another blow to NPR’s reputation. There’s no question,” she told AP.

Schiller said she and the board concluded that her “departure from NPR would help to mitigate the threat from those who have misperceptions about NPR as a news organization.”

NPR board chairman Dave Edwards said NPR would make a strong case about the importance of federal funding.

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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