National Public Radio is finding itself in the spotlight once again after a hidden camera video today emerged of former executive Ron Schiller blasting Republicans and the Tea Party in a meeting with two members of a fictitious Muslim group.
Schiller, then-president of the NPR Foundation and senior vice president for development, calls the Tea Party "xenophobic," "seriously racist people," who are "fanatically involved in people's personal lives."
He goes on to say that the Republican party has been hijacked by the Tea Party and laments the demise of intellectualism, particularly in the GOP.
Schiller was accompanied by Betsy Liley, NPR senior director of institutional giving, on the lunch with members of the "Muslim Education Action Center," a fake group set up specifically to target NPR. The two members who met with Schiller and Liley established a purported connection with the Muslim Brotherhood early on in the lunch.
The setup was the brainchild of conservative James O'Keefe, who has become famous for his hidden-camera videos, most recently targeted at the Census bureau.
The video became public today but Schiller, who joined NPR in September 2009, had announced his intent to resign before the lunch meeting took place. NPR today denounced his comments and said Schiller, who was expected to leave the organization in May, had been placed on administrative leave.
"The comments contained in the video released today are contrary to everything we stand for, and we completely disavow the views expressed," NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in a statement. "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."
Schiller is not related to NPR president and chief executive Vivian Schiller.
Tea Party groups seized the opportunity to advocate for cutting all federal funding to NPR.
"Mr. Schiller's latest comments provoke a larger question: How long will we as a nation be willing to tolerate the arrogance of the self-appointed ruling elite?" said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. "His unedited comments are indicative of the mentality of ruling elites who are threatened by the power of the Tea Party Patriots."
The controversy comes as lawmakers are embroiled in a heated debate about whether to cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which partially supports NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service.
Schiller is seen in the video saying that NPR would be better off without federal funding, and even if it were to be stripped, the organization and most of its member stations would survive.
But NPR today countered that claim, saying that such a move would be significantly damaging.
"The assertion that NPR and public radio stations would be better off without federal funding does not reflect reality," Rehm said. "The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole."
The House Republicans' budget would rescind any funding for CPB for the remainder of the year, and zero out millions in funds after that.
House majority leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., used the video to advance the Republicans' argument that federal funding be pulled from NPR.