NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned under pressure on Wednesday amid a storm of negative reaction to an undercover video that showed another NPR executive denigrating tea party adherents and saying that public radio might be better off without federal funds.
Will the ouster of Ms. Schiller quiet conservative outrage at the incident? After all, it was she who approved the firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams over comments about Muslims he made during a Fox News appearance last October. At the time, many conservatives (though not only conservatives) complained that Mr. Williams had been axed in the name of political correctness. They thought Schiller should have gotten the boot then, too.
Long answer short: No, it does not look as if Wednesday’s events will end things. If anything, it appears that Republican lawmakers now may redouble their efforts to end federal funding for public broadcasting.
Representative Cantor specifically mentioned that the now-former NPR executive caught in the video sting, Ron Schiller (who is no relation to Ms. Schiller), said that public radio might have more independence and be better able to raise funds from other sources if it lost its government subsidy.
“We are going to proceed along those lines because that’s what was said and indicated by that organization,” said Cantor.
Meanwhile, NPR employees were in shock in the aftermath of the video’s release, according to NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. Ron Schiller had swept into the organization 18 months ago, hailed as an extraordinary fundraiser who might save public radio from financial woes, writes Ms. Shepard in a cri de coeur post on her blog.
“Instead of being a ‘savior,’ Schiller might well have put a stake through NPR and public radio’s financial hearts,” writes Shepard.
Critics have long complained that NPR is a bunch of effete liberal snobs. On the hidden camera video, Mr. Schiller looks like a caricature of just such a person. He says the Republican Party is “anti-intellectual” and the tea party is “xenophobic,” and implies that conservatives are uneducated. Plus, he himself makes the argument as to why NPR should lose federal funds.
“People at NPR yesterday were angry and dazed by this episode, which is just the latest in a series of events that put the company in the worst possible light. Doesn’t anyone in NPR’s top management think of the consequences before they act?” wrote Shepard.
NPR’s missteps looked even worse after its television counterpart in public funding, PBS, announced that it had been approached by the same fake Muslim charity, the Muslim Education Action Center, but had halted discussions about a possible donation after it was not able to verify the organization’s credentials.
Hindsight has 20/20 vision, without corrective lenses. But a quick perusal of the fake website produces some obvious red flags. The false Muslim group purports to have a philosophy that includes the “spread of Islam and the establishment of Sharia worldwide.”
Sharia is Islamic law, and some critics have long insisted that one goal of radical Islamists is to impose sharia throughout the globe.
The website also lists an address for the group that is within an easy stroll of NPR headquarters. A public radio intern could have walked over at lunch just to see if it really existed.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which makes grants to public radio and television, is getting about $430 million this fiscal year. President Obama’s 2012 budget request would give CPB slight raise.
“The budget makes clear the president’s priorities, and among them are the funding at the level that we stipulate in the budget for National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” said Mr. Carney.