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NPR executive's comments on hidden camera fuels more attacks by conservatives

WASHINGTON — An NPR executive was captured on hidden camera calling the tea party movement racist and xenophobic and said NPR would be better off without federal funding, in an embarrassment likely to fuel conservative attacks on public broadcasting.

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.

It drew swift reaction from Republicans in Congress, who again called for ending funding to public broadcasters. NPR and PBS have long been targets of conservatives who say their programming has a left-wing bias.

NPR said in a statement that it was "appalled" by the comments from Ron Schiller, the president of NPR's fundraising arm and a senior vice president for development. Schiller informed NPR that he was resigning from his position before the video was shot, NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said Tuesday. He was expected to depart in May but has been placed on administrative leave.

O'Keefe posted the video Tuesday on his website, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.

"We've just exposed the true hearts and minds of NPR and their executives," O'Keefe said in a letter posted on the site. He asked supporters to sign a petition urging Congress to review NPR's funding.

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. CPB is getting $430 million this fiscal year.

The heavily edited video shows Schiller and another NPR executive, Betsy Liley, who says little. The two held a meeting at a restaurant in Washington with two men claiming to be part of the Muslim Education Action Center. The men offer NPR a $5 million donation. NPR said Tuesday it was "repeatedly pressured" to accept a $5 million check and "repeatedly refused."

"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," 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 receives about 2 percent of its revenue from federal grants, while its member stations get about 10 percent of their funding from federal and state governments.

"It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding," Schiller said, saying it would allow the organization to become an independent voice and clear up the misconception that it is largely government-funded.

Schiller conceded that if the funding were lost, "we would have a lot of stations go dark."

He did not respond to a message left at his home. He is not related to NPR chief executive Vivian Schiller.

Watch the video

See conservative filmmaker James O'Keefe's video of the two NPR executives at links.tampabay.com.

NPR executive's comments on hidden camera fuels more attacks by conservatives 03/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 11:28pm]
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