More Controversy Hits NPR With Release Of Fundraiser's Phone Conversation
March 11, 2011 at 7:51 AM (PT)
The controversy generated by conservative activist JAMES O'KEEFE's "sting" video showing former NPR fundraising chief RON SCHILLER making denigrating statements about conservatives and Tea Party members continues to rock the network with O'KEEFE's release of a tape of NPR Sr. Dir./Institutional Giving BETSY LILEY discussing taking the $5 million donation offered by O'KEEFE's fictitious "Muslim Education Action Center," which contradicts the network's assertion that it had rejected the offer out of hand.
O'KEEFE, who has been criticized in the past for editing his sting videos against organizations like ACORN but who released unedited video of the SCHILLER incident, has also produced an e-mail from LILEY that said she was awaiting a draft from NPR legal counsel of an agreement for the gift. LILEY has been placed on administrative leave by NPR.
The network, which accepted the resignation of CEO VIVIAN SCHILLER in the wake of the initial incident, responded in a statement issued by SVP of Marketing, Communications & External Relations DANA DAVIS REHM that read, "The statement made by BETSY LILEY in the audiotapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR's gift practices. All donations -- anonymous and named -- are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations. Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of RON SCHILLER and BETSY LILEY. Mr. SCHILLER is no longer with NPR and Ms. LILEY has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter.
"No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day."
News Staffers Condemn Ron Schiller Comments
Meanwhile, 23 of NPR's most well-known journalists issued an open letter about the RON SCHILLER incident, saying, "We, and our colleagues at NPR NEWS, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR's now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect. Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we're confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world. With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever."
Signing the letter were ROBERT SIEGEL, MICHELE NORRIS, MELISSA BLOCK, RENEE MONTAGNE, SCOTT SIMON, LIANE HANSEN, GUY RAZ, MICHEL MARTIN, NEAL CONAN, SUSAN STAMBERG, NINA TOTENBERG, LINDA WERTHEIMER, DANIEL ZWERDLING, JOHN YDSTIE, RICHARD HARRIS, TOM GJELTEN, HOWARD BERKES, MIKE SHUSTER, LAURA SULLIVAN, LYNN NEARY, JACKI LYDEN, MARA LIASSON, and COKIE ROBERTS.