The Truth Hurts The Wrong Side: NPR Acquiesces to The ACORN Hitman

By Arturo R. García

Another week, another politically damaging phone con. This time, National Public Radio was the mark, and it got hit hard.

NPR CEO and President Vivian Schiller was forced to resign Wednesday after a fellow executive, Ron Schiller (no relation) was caught on tape describing the Tea Party as not just “Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic. I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Now, what could ever have given Mr. Schiller that impression?

Photos and video are under the cut. Warning: photos contain racist language/imagery.

At the time, Ron Schiller, NPR’s senior vice-president for fundraising, was speaking to two members of a group called the Muslim Action Education Center. According to an NPR statement released later in the day, the two men insisted on giving him a check for $5 million, which he did not accept. In fact, he was speaking with two members of the ironically-named Project Veritas, led by James O’Keefe – the same man behind the 2009 ACORN hit-job.

And just like in the ACORN case, the video that went online yesterday was edited to show Schiller putting his foot in his mouth – at least from a strategic standpoint.

At various points in the video, Schiller is captured making statements like:

  • “Well frankly, it is clear that we would be better off in the long-run without federal funding. The challenge right now is that if we lost it all together we would have a lot of stations go dark.”
  • “I think what we all believe is that if we don’t have Muslim voices in our schools, 0n the air, it’s the same thing we faced as a nation when we didn’t have female voices.”
  • “It feels to me as though there is a real anti-intellectual move on the part of a significant part of the Republican Party.”

To be sure, Ron Schiller should have been disciplined for allowing himself to get pranked so thoroughly – and for not checking his sources; a spokesperson for Public Broadcasting told MSNBC one of its’ own executives had also been contacted by Veritas/MAEC, but broke off talks when PBS couldn’t verify the group’s story. So at the very least, he should have known better than to “take his NPR hat off” here, even before his two new buddies started in with the “Our founders were part of the Muslim Brotherhood in America” and “Zionist” talk.

But sacking Valerie Schiller smacks of overcompensation, both for this incident and for the firing of Juan Williams last year. And as least one expert told the Christian Science Monitor, it might not stave off attacks and calls to pull its’ funding anyway.

“I don’t think any of this helps the survival, let alone the quality existence, of public broadcasting in the United States,” said Stephen Ward, the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “You can argue that these comments … don’t reflect the grander importance of public broadcasting, but in a world of agenda-setting journalism, these are perfect examples for people who dislike or oppose public broadcasting to use for political purposes.”

“Obamanomics” image courtesy of Progress Now Colorado

  • michelle

    I wouldn’t necessarily catagorize the whole party as racist-only because I don’t know enough about them. I can’t say I like what I have seen so far. At the very least, it is clear from reading that bottom sign, some of them may want to consult a dictionary. You know-step up that vocab!

  • http://happynappyhead.com Seattle Slim

    I wrote a post on this yesterday and a white male reader told me that I was intellectually dishonest for saying the tea party is racist. I told him that I have grown weary of a segment of the population telling me what I can consider racist or not because I am living it. I am glad that someone else said this. Studies shown at Newsweek show that if they aren’t racist, they certainly don’t give a damn about minorities or blacks to be specific.

  • http://www.stormflorez.com StormMiguel Florez

    Thank you for writing this, Mr. Garcia. I sent the following letter to NPR on Wednesday.

    Dear NPR,

    I am sorely disappointed and angered by the forced resignation of Vivian
    Schiller for speaking what no one in the media dares to speak. The Tea
    Party IS racist! There is overt and overwhelming evidence of the use of
    racism in the Tea Party’s tactics. But it doesn’t stop there. Racism is
    endemic in American society and that needs to be acknowledged if there is
    ever going to be any real healing around racism. Racism has become such a
    dirty word, the word is responded to with more venom and fear than the
    truth of racism itself. It isn’t dissimilar to how incest/sexual abuse is
    treated in families. The victim is often treated worse than the
    perpetrator for bringing up something so shameful.

    Rather than ousting an employee for calling a fundamentally racist party
    out in a conversation, why not look at racism honestly, from the Tea Party
    flavor of racism, to the white liberal racism that the Democratic party is
    steeped in.

    Also, I am looking forward to the day when liberals grow a spine and tell
    it like it is without giving a rat’s ass what conservatives think. We
    certainly do not stop them from saying nasty and mean things about us.
    And calling someone racist has isn’t even mean and nasty! It’s the truth.
    Racism is in the ground water, and will never go away as long as white
    liberals let conservatives and other liberals hold the fear of punishment
    over them for bringing it up and out into the open.

    Writing this in hopes of a more just world.

    StormMiguel Florez
    March 9, 2011

  • http://heavyarmor.wordpress.com Heavy Armor

    It’s not overcompensation.

    It’s a pattern. And your ‘mainstream’ media is complicit in it.

    The same stations, papers, and news shows that give credence to O’Keefe (and his handler Andrew Breitbart) never mention the lies and fabrications they created in getting this ‘damaging footage.’ However, Congress passed an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder (with the Defund ACORN Act) in response to O’Keefe’s first fabrication; the Obama Administration summarily fired Shirley Sherrod after Breitbart’s selective video fabrication – in which both the administration and the NAACP ended up with egg on the face after the full video exonerated Sherrod of Breitbart’s smear; and O’Keefe was never charged for his break-in attempt at Senator Landrieu’s office.

    The fact that O’Keefe has even been given a wide platform with that litany of offenses on his plate suggests that there is indeed more going on here. And that his video as some kind of “smoking gun” is odd, unless placed in the context of “NPR = Liberal Bastion” (which it never was) and GOP/Tea Party reps have a Defund Public Broadcasting Amendment waiting in the wings to be hammered into the budget. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  • Val

    It’s really hard for me to care what happens to NPR at this point because NPR, along with PBS, has willfully ignored its mandate for diversity. And I thought it was pretty ironic that Ron Schiller called out Tea Partiers for being racist when NPR is just as racist in its own way as it seems to only value the opinions of Whites. So yes, Tea Party people spew racial epitaphs but NPR (and PBS) shows how little it thinks of People of Color every single day by excluding us.

  • http://planeideas.blogspot.com GBT

    The departure of Vivian Schiller at NPR is an opening to a more inclusive and progressive NPR. Tragically for all under her tenure NPR was a underdeveloped enterprise which ignored entire continents of color and serviced just the palate of the elite and the bandwidth of western thought and ethos.

    As a Black activist from my porch the genius of Black America is unlimited and has many incarnations. NPR under Vivian Schiller’s tenure never valued the genius of Black culture all to often we were ignored and marginalized. We are more than portrayals of despair and conflict. We are more than just sports, entertainment and civil rights. NPR in part because its corporate leaders never did capture our essence.

    Now is the time to leverage this moment and champion the selection of a new CEO at NPR that will value inclusion and diversity not just in content but in the staffing of NPR. NPR can be a national asset but not without people of color in the mix……

  • http://planeideas.blogspot.com GBT

    Vivian Schiller was no comrade for Black men even though Juan Williams who clearly is a bigot for his remarks about Muslims her comment that he needed to see a psychiatrist was offensive and is the same hate speech Black men who dared to have an opinon get assaulted with in America..MLK and to many other Black leaders get attacked as being “crazy”

    Sorry But I have zero pity for Vivian..Good Riddance!!!!!

    • Facebook User

      Juan Williams is NOTHING like MLK.

  • Nirrti

    So tell me again what’s the difference between the Tea Party, who calls people like me the “N” word, and the liberal organizations, who punish their people for rightfully calling out those who are racist?

    Oh, and are people like the ones in the third photo too lazy to at least bother with Spellcheck?

  • nihilix

    I’m on the board of a community station – a small, tied to my community community station and the high muckety mucks in National Public Radio have struck me as failures and cowards for QUITE some time. They cave to these dudes? How 2006 of them! That board might be the problem – but big public radio is out of touch, has been bullied by the right and only knows to cower. Firing Valarie Schiller is LAME.