Media

NPR Issues New Statement: Exec Put on 'Leave' & We Need Public Funding

"...we completely disavow the views expressed."

NPR has issued a follow-up statement to its comments earlier today regarding James O'Keefe's undercover video. According to spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm, the NPR executive featured in the video, Ron Schiller, has been placed on "administrative leave" despite already announcing his departure come May.

In addition to announcing Schiller's suspension, Rehm makes clear "the comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed." She also blasts the notion that NPR would be better off without federal funding.

"The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality," she says. "The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole."

Those comments seem all but necessary as politicians convened today for pre-scheduled talks about defunding the public radio outlet.

“As we continue to identify ways to cut spending and save valuable resources, this disturbing video makes clear that taxpayer dollars should no longer be appropriated to NPR,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in an e-mail to the Daily Caller. “Not only have top public broadcasting executives finally admitted that they do not need taxpayer dollars to survive, it is also clear that without federal funds, public broadcasting stations self-admittedly would become eligible for more private dollars on top of the multi-million dollar donations these organizations already receive.”

"The real crux of the video was when the guy [NPR executive Ron Schiller] admitted that they could survive and would even be better off without federal funding," GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn told the Washington Examiner's Byron York. "That's what I'm hoping happens."

On NPR's own website there was confusion regarding Schiller's status. Late this afternoon, NPR's David Folkenflik reported Schiller's resignation had been moved up to be "effective immediately:"

"Just last Thursday Ron Schiller announced he would be leaving NPR to take a position at the Aspen Institute in Colorado. He has been commuting from his home in Aspen, at his own expense, during his 18 months on the job. Today, his departure was made effective immediately."

NPR blogger Mark Memmot later walked that back once Rehm issued her new statement.

Still, Memmot does offer some interesting information about why NPR may not have accepted the original $5 million donation:

NPR's David Folkenflik, who's finishing up a report about this for All Things Considered, reports that there were clear signs that the Muslim Education Action Center Trust was not a long-standing organization — Internet records show the center's website was created in mid-January. The address for the organization? A UPS store.

CEO Vivian Schiller tells David that NPR became aware of those peculiarities, and that NPR was vetting the organization. And he has obtained e-mails (not from an official NPR source, but which have been verified by NPR) showing that the network last week asked the fictitious Ibrahim Kasaam for, among other things, verification that the Muslim Education Action Center was qualified as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. It was not, of course.

Vivian Schiller also tells David that the men posing as representatives of the Muslim Education Action Center asked several times for someone from NPR to come to their offices so that a photograph could be taken as a donation check was handed over. That request was turned down because NPR was not close to being finished with its vetting of the organization, she says.

Rehm's newly-released statement is included below:

The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed. NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover. Our reporting reflects those values every single day – in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell.

The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole.

Prior to the lunch meeting presented in the edited video, Ron Schiller had informed NPR that he was resigning from his position to take a new job. His resignation was announced publicly last week, and he was expected to depart in May. While we review this situation, he has been placed on administrative leave.

One last thing…
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