With conservatives dominating broadcast and cable news (and with much of it being of poor quality regardless of whether there is any bias), NPR has become the primary source for quality, objective broadcast news. This makes it a prime target of the right wing, which requires that people be exposed to their falsehoods as opposed to the actual facts in order to obtain support. The latest attack on NPR comes from James O’Keefe, the same person responsible for the faked tapes in the right wing smear campaign against ACORN.
The attempted smear against NPR has multiple problems. O’Keefe used people pretending to be Muslims connected with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood offering a contribution. The person caught on tape, Ron Schiller, previously worked in fund raising at NPR and had nothing to do with editorial or news content of shows. He is not even currently working at NPR. The statements which the right wing finds sh0king are quite true:
Schiller: 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… it’s been hijacked by this group that…
Fake Muslim: The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?
Schiller: It’s not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic. Basically, they believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s pretty scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.
The tape was heavily edited, but regardless of context these statements about extremist elements taking over the Republican Party and Tea Party are true. He also discussed government funding of NPR:
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… 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.
NPR gets about $90 million out out of a budget of $800 million a year from the federal government. In responding, NPR points out that the view that Schiller’s statement that “in the long run we would be better off without federal funding” is “a position in direct conflict with the organization’s official position.” Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s senior vice president of marketing, communications and external relations, has released this statement:
“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.
“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.
“Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”
There were also some portions which are of questionable meaning, such as laughing at NPR being referred to as “National Palestinian Radio” due to both editing of the tape and due to questions as, if true, they simply represent pandering to potential donors. As David Weigel (who also found at least one case of dishonest editing of the tape) put it, “Schiller is a professional fundraiser, not a journalist. His pandering to the group is actually sort of masterful.”
Here we have a case of someone who spoke the truth about the Republican Party, but which NPR is still not going to accept to preserve their journalistic integrity. (It is a totally different question as to whether these standards of objectivity are a mistake, making it easier for the right wing media to spread misinformation by giving a false equivalency to honest news and right wing propaganda.) The right wing regularly defends Fox for making statements which not only are biased towards their side but which are also untrue.
Here we have a statement from someone who is not at NPR, who was never involved in editorial decisions, and which (while true), NPR objected to. The donation offered was not even accepted. There’s nothing here to support the right wing crusade against NPR.