Excerpted Sting Videos of NPR Leave Out Important Context

Mar 14, 2011 3:28pm

The full video of the sting on NPR executives indicates that some of the excerpts of the video provided by conservative guerilla filmmaker James O'Keefe were so misleading as to have been deceitful and dishonest.

The misleadingly edited passages may have still had the same impact had they been excerpted fairly. NPR senior vice president Dana Davis Rehm told NPR media reporter David Folkenflik that "egregious comments were made that were not distorted, doctored or fundamentally misrepresented,” in the video. The part of the video that was most seized upon by Republicans in Congress — in which former NPR senior vice president of fundraising Ron Schiller says NPR would survive a loss of funding from the federal government, though some local stations would go dark – was not taken out of context.

But other excerpts in the tapes were misleadingly edited.

Most glaringly, the excerpted video has Schiller saying: “the current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that…(is) really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — I mean, it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

The full video has the exchange as:

Schiller:   “The current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that…”

‘Muslim‘: “The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?”

Schiller: “Exactly. And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people. I won’t break a confidence, but a person who was an ambassador — so, a very highly placed Republican — another person, who was one of the top donors to the Republican party, they both told me they voted for Obama, which they never believed they could ever do in their lives. That they could ever vote for a Democrat, ever. And they did, because they think the current Republican party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that…”

‘Muslim’: “The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?”

Schiller: “Exactly. And not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — I mean, it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Unquestionably, though Schiller doesn’t refute the comments, he says he is relaying others’ views.

The excerpted video has Schiller saying "the current Republican party particularly the Tea Party is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian — and I wouldn't even call it Christian, it's this weird evangelical kind of move.”

He did say that. He also said at the beginning of that thought that he feels there’s a "real anti-intellectual mood on part of a significant part of the Republican party. It's not all Republicans, in fact I grew up a Republican and am proud of that, although I’ve voted mostly Democratic lately. I like the Republican party in terms of fiscal conservatism…and the fact that Republican party of old really believes that the government has no role in personal lives and family lives.”

There were other misrepresentations in the editing, but the above are the only sections ABC News included in its reporting.

A personal note here: At the time I was assigned to cover this story, I asked NPR communications officials if the video was being unfairly excerpted in any way, as O'Keefe has done in the past. They did not believe it was. I regret not having reviewed the entire two hour video before reporting even one word on this, and I pledge that I will try to make sure that never happens again. 

Kudos to the conservative website The Blaze for drawing attention to this.

-Jake Tapper

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