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NPR exec caught on tape calling Tea Partiers 'racist'

NPR officials scramble to contain damage caused by the release of a videotape that showed an executive criticizing Tea Party supporters by calling them "racist."
/ Source: news services

NPR officials scrambled Tuesday to contain damage caused by the release of a secretly recorded videotape that showed an executive calling Tea Party supporters "racist" and questioning his organization's reliance on federal funding.

Ron Schiller, NPR Foundation's senior vice president for fundraising, was recorded secretly on Feb. 22  by Republican filmmaker James O'Keefe, who is well known for his undercover stunts targeting various agencies.

Schiller is seen on a videotape during a luncheon with men who were posing as members of the fictitious Muslim Action Education Center.

Among Schiller's comments: Tea Partiers are "Xenophobic, I mean basically they are; they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."

Schiller (no relation to NPR CEO Vivian Schiller), also stated that NPR "would be better off in the long run without federal funding," a comment that is in conflict with the organization's position, NPR reported.

Some members of Congress called for a federal funding cutoff. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the video proved that tax dollars should stop going to NPR.

"This video clearly highlights the fact that public broadcasting doesn't need taxpayer funding to thrive, and I hope that admission will lead to a bipartisan consensus to end these unnecessary federal subsidies," said Cantor in a statement.

NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in a statement, “We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for,” The New York Times reported.

Schiller, who was hired in September 2009, announced last week that he would be leaving NPR for a new job. NPR said his departure was "effective immediately."

Rehm told members stations that "there is no connection between the video and (Ron Schiller's) decision to leave NPR," NBC News reported.

The Daily Caller posted an edited version of the video that showed Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, having lunch with the men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik. The pair told Schiller they wanted to give $5 million to NPR, "partly out of concern for the defunding process the Republicans are trying to engage in."

NPR officials said they repeatedly refused the money.

“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," Rehm said in the NPR statement.

It wasn't clear why NPR didn't accept the money, and it didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

No one from O'Keefe's group, Project Veritas, was immediately available for comment.

The unedited video is available here.

In the video, Schiller indicated that he thought it was important that the nation has "Muslim voices in our schools and on our air. I mean it's the same thing we faced when we as a nation didn't have female voice."

But that comment wasn't what caused a furor. It was his comments about the Tea Party. At one point, Schiller says: "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 movement."

Later during the lunch, one of the men talks about media ownership and bias. One said: “Jews do kind of control the media or, I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interests in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel.”

Schiller, who is seen listening, responds: "I don't find that at NPR, the Zionist or pro-Israel. Even among funders. ... I mean it's there in people who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR.  I don't find it."

Two years ago, O'Keefe posed as a pimp and shot videos inside ACORN offices where staffers appeared to offer illegal tax advice and to support the misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children. A year later, he and three others were involved in a scheme to record embarrassing hidden camera footage to document allegations Sen. Mary Landrieu ignored calls critical of her stance on health care reform.