James O’Keefe, the controversial, undercover, conservative filmmaker, has released his company’s (Project Veritas) latest video today. This time, his group’s targeting publicly-funded NPP and catches one of the news outlet’s executives saying some suspect things. The video is sure to get some attention, but it’s not bulletproof, and there could be cause for concern.
To be sure, one of the NPR executives on the video, Ron Schiller (president of the NPR Foundation and senior vice president of development), is caught making damning statements. He calls the Tea Party “racist,” decries the “anti-intellectual” GOP, and claims liberals “might be more educated.”
He even attacks the supposed religious views of the Tea Party: “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.”
“[I]f Schiller represents the executive view at NPR,” Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey writes, “it’s not hard to imagine what kind of treatment those white, gun-toting, xenophobic Tea Partiers can expect from NPR’s news coverage.”
But the video also falls short of its intended goal: to catch NPR execs kowtowing to a fake Muslim Brotherhood front group. Schiller, as well as his companion, do not say anything shocking about glorifying the group per se, and it must be remembered that this is a donor meeting with $5 million on the line, not a policy debate.
That is not to say that Schiller is absolved from everything he said, but rather to give context. See and decide for yourself. I’ll update with some more thoughts in a bit:
Again, there is some shocking stuff there. But some things should be noted, including concerns:
1. Schiller does try to distinguish (somewhat) his professional views from his personal views. He fails. In the end, he’s at a work-related event. Trying to qualify something as “this is my personal opinion” doesn’t give him a blank slate to say whatever he wants and have it not reflect on NPR. Ironically, in the video Schiller blasts Juan Williams for doing this very thing.
2. Schiller does say that NPR is looking to feature Muslim voices. Guess what, Sean Hannity does the same thing. The Blaze does the same thing. All journalists and news organizations have a responsibility to present to the best of their ability all sides of the story. That’s why Hannity invited radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary on his program a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t agree with someone, they should still get a chance to say what they want. Glenn Beck has always said he’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any MSNBC host for freedom of speech.
3. Some are pointing out that Schiller admits the station would be better off without federal funding, and use it as a “gotcha” moment. I’m not sure that’s the case. I’ve worked in fundraising before, and it seems to me what Schiller is doing there is trying to remove a donation barrier. As he says, most “philanthropists” think NPR as almost fully-funded by the government, which certainly could prevent people from donating to the organization. If the government’s mainly funding NPR, why should donors?
4. It must be pointed out that Schiller does not overtly dignify the actor’s anti-Semitic comments. When the actor talks about Jews controlling the media, Schiller only gives a half-hearted head motion. In fact, Schiller goes out of his way to point out that there’s no such thing as “Jewish influence” at NPR. That’s huge, and Schiller should be commended for that.
Unfairly, O’Keefe puts Schiller’s response under the heading, “Jews Own the Newspapers, Obviously.” That’s not what he said at all. He said that there is Jewish influence at papers that are owned by Jews. That’s a far cry from saying “Jews own the newspapers, obviously.” In fact, Schiller’s associate, Betsy Liley, even mentions that NPR is funded in part by a Jewish organization. That doesn’t seem to be placating anti-Semitism.
5. When the actor first begins talking of the Muslim Brotherhood, the video cuts. The actor says the organization was originally funded by a few members of the MB in America, and we do not see or hear Schiller’s unedited, immediate reaction. The video instead cuts to Schiller’s talk about Muslim voices. Maybe that is his immediate reaction, but we don’t know since there’s a video cut. That could be important, or maybe it’s not. But it’s definitely worth pointing out.
The video, in the end, not only raises questions about NPR, but it also raises questions about undercover, gotcha journalism that can sometimes border on entrapment. We’ll be discussing this more in the future.
For now, consider these points, watch the video again, and feel free to comment. We will be watching the story all day, including bringing you any reaction from NPR. By the way, we did reach out to NPR for comment. A spokeswoman declined to comment and said an official statement will be released today.
It also bears mentioning that yesterday video surfaced of NPR president Vivian Schiller issuing a challenge to find examples of NPR bias. It’s doesn’t bode well for her that Ron Schiller’s comments about the Tea Party were made public today (note: Ron and Vivian are not related):
NPR has responded to the video. See our story on that here.