NPR VP: ‘In The Long Run We Would Be Better Off Without Federal Funding’

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Right-wing prankster James O'Keefe has unveiled his latest undercover video. It's a hidden-camera video of two NPR executives, SVP of development Ron Schiller and institutional giving director Betsy Liley, as the pair meet with a couple of O'Keefe's team members who are pretending to be Muslim activists (tied to the Muslim Brotherhood in America) looking to give $5 million to NPR. As you might expect with that amount of money, there's a fair amount of kowtowing that goes on — mostly from Schiller, who humors the actors' more extreme statements. It's an unattractive display (especially the way the video is edited, where it's difficult to tell what the provocateurs are saying), but not altogether surprising from an inside-the-beltway liberal. Both Schiller and Liley try to explain how NPR doesn't let those who argue against climate change have a voice in their science reports because the disbelief in the phenomenon is anti-scientific and belongs only in their political reporting. Schiller laments the anti-intellectualism of the Republicans and the "weird kind of evangelical" movement that appears to be steering their ship. "It's not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic," he says. "Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people."

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit from the tape is when Schiller talks about NPR's funding. Out of a budget of about $800 million a year, only $90 million comes from the federal government. (For all the bluster about cutting funding for programs like NPR to fix the deficit, that's all they get?) "Republicans play off the belief among the general population that most of our funding comes from the government. Very little of our funding comes from the government, but they act as if all our funding comes from the government," Schiller said. "It is very clear that in the long run we would be better off without federal funding. And the challenge right now is that if we lost it altogether, we'd have a lot of stations go dark." That is, for the long-term viability and independence of NPR, it'd be great not to rely on government funds, but if someone yanked the rug out today, a lot of local stations wouldn't be able to withstand it.

O'Keefe supporter Matt Drudge is already touting the video with a banner headline this morning, and conservative websites like the Daily Caller, Hot Air, and the National Review are already having their fun with it. Sad for them that, as Dave Weigel points out, Schiller has already left NPR for the Aspen Institute.