Not many people were surprised National Public Radio announced that President and CEO Vivian Schiller had resigned, the day after the release of an undercover video sting showing a former top NPR executive vilifying grass-roots conservatives and questioning the need for continued federal funding for the organization.
Ms Schiller has been in the press too much lately, not only firing Juan Williams, but the way she fired him and the follow up comments about seeing a psychiatrist and the James O’ Keefe sting video coming the day after her challenge to find incidents of bias was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
When the news came out, no one really believed that she resigned, more that the CEO was forced out. What was surprising is the fact that NPR’s own Media Reporter, David Folkenflik out the board on twitter soon after the “resignation” was announced.
Soon after Folkenflik appeared on NPR to go deeper into the story (audio of the interview is embedded below)
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David Folkenflik: Well the board of directors of NPR have put out a statement saying they accepted Vivian Schiller’s resignation. I’m told by sources that she was forced out — that this was, I guess, the final shoe dropping, you could say.
The most immediate back story of course is, as you mentioned, Ron Schiller, the former senior vice president for fundraising, seemingly disparaging conservatives, something NPR executives have said is not part of our core, in fact not any part of our DNA — that we’re supposed to be a place of civility, open-mindedness, where people can hear themselves reflected in our coverage and on our air.
It’s important to say he used some pretty strong language about the Tea Party in this particular part of his conversation.
Exactly so. And so this was damaging in and of itself, on its face, but it’s only the latest in a series of recent episodes.
And those recent episodes began with the firing of Juan Williams last fall.
In a sense, very much, yes. Juan Williams made what are now some famous comments on Fox News Channel, where he was also a contributor, talking about fearing people in Muslim garb on airlines. NPR executives including [Vivian] Schiller but also then-Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss, forced out Juan as an analyst, saying that that’s not the kind of comments — it was one in a series of events in which he was making inappropriate comments. Uh, that blew up, as you may recall. It ultimately cost Ellen Weiss her job. …
And I think it’s important to underscore that all of this happened amid a push by Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the House of Representatives, stemming back to last June, to strip public broadcasting of all federal funding. The Republicans took over the House of Representatives and indeed this winter passed a bill to strip public broadcasting of all funds.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting distributes federal funds — a modest amount to NPR directly but a significant amount to its [NPR’s] member stations. The fear is that up to 100 stations could go dark without it. That’s the real backdrop here. There were renewed calls yesterday on Capitol Hill, intensified calls to take that money away, and I think the board … a majority of which is controlled by station officials themselves, our clients but also our corporate board members, felt that this was one misstep, one major black eye too many.
Here is an irony, NPR which was incredibly biased in its coverage of the James O’Keefe outing of ACORN, covering only one side of the ACORN story, was outed and “stung” by the same O’Keefe.
Is NPR Biased? I have never been a regular listener, but I can say they were biased in ACORN story, the one-sided firing of Juan Williams, they are also one-sided in their Middle East reporting. The bottom line is it doesn’t actually matter whether they are actually biased or not. The fact that they are perceived as biased and funded in part by the government of the United States is the real issue. In a era when the United States is being crushed under the weight of its own debt and public broadcasting is not a necessary budget item such as social security, or defense, it is time for the Congress to give NPR (and PBS) to have any type of bias it wants and take government funding out of the two organizations. As a totally independent organization NPR may still be blasted for its bias, but will no longer have to deflect challenges from the government for its editorial positions.
The entire Folkenflik interview is below (if you cannot see video below click here)