Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pick NPR Up in a Limo and They'll Suck Up to You Too

Remember James O'Keefe who brought down ACORN with hidden camera video footage? It appears he may have done it again to the folks at NPR, National Public Radio. The video speaks for itself:

A couple of guys masquerading as philanthropists associated with the Muslm Brotherhood pick up two NPR executives with a rented limo, take them to lunch, dangle a $5 million donation, and record the whole thing.

NPR had this to say:
"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. We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for. Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
At the end of the business day, NPR had this update:
"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."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
Later in the evening, NPR revised the last paragraph:
"Ron Schiller tendered his resignation on January 24, well before the lunch meeting occurred. His resignation was announced last week. He was intending to stay with NPR through May 5. We have mutually agreed that Ron is leaving NPR effective today."

-- Dana Davis Rehm, SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations.
And even later in the evening NPR has this joint statement:
"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6th, to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today."

-- Ron Schiller, Former SVP of Development and Former President of the NPR Foundation - March 8, 2011
"Ron Schiller's remarks are contrary to what NPR stands for and deeply distressing to reporters, editors and others who bring fairness, civility and respect for a wide variety of viewpoints to their work every day."

-- Vivian Schiller, President and CEO, NPR
And exactly what statements by Ron Schiller led to this cascade? Its hard to know where to start. There's this one:
"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. ... 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. They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting - it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
And this one:
"It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding,"
Let's recap the backtracking by NPR: We're appalled, we disavow, not our values, we're distressed. He already said he's leaving, he was leaving before this ever happened, he's on administrative leave, he's gone, I tell you he's gone.

I think there will be another statement, because CEO Vivian Schiller forgot to apologize on behalf of NPR in the last statement. Being distressed is neither an apology nor a disavowal. Just to make it messier, I've read elsewhere that Ron Schiller and Vivian Schiller are not related, so no doubt that will take some tries to clarify too.

While NPR itself gets very little of its funding from the government, local public radio stations get about 10 to 30 percent of their funding from government grants. Now the question is whether the Republicans in Congress will renew those grants, with legislation already introduced by Republicans to defund them.

All things considered, it's time for a little fresh air - the local public radio stations should apologize for and disavow NPR.

Update 3/9/2011: The other shoe has fallen at NPR and CEO Vivian Schiller has been forced out:
"The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

Board Chairman Dave Edwards said: 'The Board accepted Vivian's resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.'

According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, will be appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will establish an Executive Transition Committee to develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership."

-- NPR Board of Directors
And just who exactly is on this board?

Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of NPR (resigned)

Antoine W. van Agtmael, Chair of the NPR Foundation; Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Emerging Markets Management, LLP

Dave Edwards, Director/General Manager, WUWM; Chair of the Board, NPR

Steve Bass, President and Chief Executive Officer, Oregon Public Broadcasting

Bill Davis, President and CEO, Southern California Public Radio

Jose Fajardo, President & CEO, WMFE

Betsy Gardella, President and CEO, New Hampshire Public Radio

Kit Jensen, Chief Operating Officer WVIZ/PBS & 90.3 WCPN ideastream

Jon McTaggart, Chief Operating Officer, Minnesota Public Radio

Greg Petrowich, Executive Director, WSIU Public Broadcasting

Marita Rivero, Vice President and General Manager for Radio and Television, WGBH

Roger Sarow, President, WFAE-FM

Carol Cartwright, President, Bowling Green State University; Vice Chair of the Board, NPR

Eduardo A. Hauser, Chief Executive Officer, DailyMe, Inc.

John A Herrmann, Jr., Vice Chairman, Lincoln International

Lyle Logan, Managing Director, Global Financial Institutions Group

Howard H. Stevenson, Sarofim-Rock Baker Foundation Professor, Harvard Business School; Senior Associate Dean, Director of HBS Publishing
I suspect Antoine van Agtmael will step down from the board, as Ron Schiller was under the NPR Foundation that he chairs, and we may see other replacements on the NPR board as well.

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