Friday, March 11, 2011

NPR Would Like to Remain Anonymous

It just gets worse for NPR with the posting of a recorded phone call between NPR fundraiser Betsy Liley and a guy calling himself Ibrahmim Kasaam offering to give NPR $5 million anonymously from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center Trust.

To my mind, this was the crucial exchange:
Ibrahmim Kasaam: Are you suggesting NPR is considering not accepting ...

Betsy Liley: Oh no no no no no.
It's hard to reconcile that with NPR's statement earlier in the week that "The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept."

From what Betsy says in this long and rambling call, it does appear she came into this call after a meeting with NPR's general counsel in which she was instructed that there would need to be some due diligence done into the Muslim Education Action Center Trust before the gift could be accepted. Nonetheless, Betsy seems to beat around the bush on getting the specific information she was instructed to ask for concerning the structure of the trust, who else it has contributed to, and from whom it gets its money.

Betsy was placed on administrative leave earlier in the week. At one point in the call, Ibrahmim was fishing for a conference call with NPR CEO Vivian Schiller to discuss what information NPR wanted. So I imagine that we will be hearing that conversation soon. We'll see how well the actual recording matches her email description of the call which was released by NPR.

NPR's head lawyer Joyce Slocum did write a strong email making clear that NPR would not accept the $5 million gift without doing its due diligence. At the same time, she does seem to imply that if their paperwork was in order the gift would be accepted.

NPR has put a lot in the fact that they did not accept the offered $5 million check. It has still not sunk in that there never was any $5 million to accept. As the gift negotiations went forward, NPR's lawyer clearly thought something was fishy. The inevitable question is why they didn't contact law enforcement or have their own news hounds do some investigating.

Joyce Slocum has been named interim CEO at NPR. The NPR board might have done better to name someone who had no involvement with this embarrassing affair.

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