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NPR's Schiller & Schiller: Many Political Missteps on the Road to Resigning
Politics Daily ^ | March 9, 2011 | Jill Lawrence, Senior Correspondent

Posted on 03/09/2011 9:04:44 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

In retrospect it seems inevitable. Take a hostile political environment, a red-hot spotlight and relatively inexperienced leadership, mix well, and you get tumult at NPR.

Political naivete and tin ears are the threads running through the saga of Vivian Schiller, forced out as NPR's CEO on Wednesday, and Ron Schiller, no relation, who quit as NPR's top fundraiser on Tuesday. Vivian Schiller is widely credited for dramatic improvements in NPR's web presence and mobile applications, and she is a strong defender of NPR's journalism. But there's no ignoring the multiple embarrassments that are undercutting NPR's mission and efforts to keep Republicans in Congress from ending its federal funding.

First there was the firing of news analyst Juan Williams for a comment he made about Muslims on Fox News. Then there was Vivian Schiller's remark that Williams should have kept his views "between himself and his psychiatrist." Then there was her press release thanking President Barack Obama for being nice to public broadcasting in his budget. This week there's Ron Schiller's downfall at the hands of James O'Keefe, the same conservative sting artist who brought down ACORN with secret videotapes, and now Vivian Schiller's own resignation as CEO.

Her ouster was "not unfair" given the turmoil of the past few months, one editorial employee at NPR told me. Lost in the continuing noise is NPR's journalism. "Williams was just starting to recede, and now this," the employee said. "We need to remind people of who and what we are."

Vivian Schiller came to NPR after holding executive positions at the New York Times, the Discovery Channel, and CNN. She had not been a CEO before and she had not headed an organization that relied on Congress for part of its budget. She hired Ron Schiller as NPR's top fundraiser -- vice president for development of NPR and president of the NPR Foundation -- in September 2009.

At the time, Ron Schiller was vice president for alumni relations and development for the University of Chicago. According to NPR's announcement, Schiller also had "led fundraising on behalf of Carnegie Mellon, Northeastern University, Cornell, the New England Conservatory of Music and the Eastman School of Music." In other words, before NPR, Schiller's background was in academic politics – not the real-world kind.

Still, whether it's atop the Ivory Tower or inside the Beltway, wouldn't it be standard procedure to research a potential $5 million donor, in this case the Muslim Education Action Center, before going out to lunch to discuss the gift? That didn't happen before Ron Schiller met with two "citizen journalists posing as Muslims" from the group, as the O'Keefe video describes them. After the lunch, NPR determined MEAC and the $5 million offer to be fake, but not before Schiller was captured on tape calling the tea party movement "seriously racist" and the Republican Party "fanatically involved in people's personal lives."

Given the political environment, it's hard to believe NPR wouldn't be especially careful about the face it presents to the public. Liberal organizations are known targets, not just of conservative budget cutters, but of O'Keefe and other secret videographers. First ACORN, then Planned Parenthood, now NPR. Even if Ron Schiller didn't anticipate a scam, why didn't he leave when his lunch partners at Café Milano started talking about the Muslim Brotherhood, Zionism and Jews controlling the media?

People close to NPR and Schiller call the incident inexplicable. "You have to question his judgment," NPR ombudswoman Alicia Shepard said on the "Diane Rehm Show." She added, incredulously: "You meet with complete strangers and you blab your personal opinions in public? You don't think that maybe you're going to be a target at NPR?"

Every media outlet has an image and a role to protect, so most of us do our best to cultivate goodwill -- not alienation -- as we talk to people around the country. NPR media reporter David Folkenflik describes NPR's identity this way: "A place of civility, open-mindedness, where people can hear themselves reflected in our coverage and on our air." Obviously that is not how Schiller represented his organization at that lunch, perhaps because he's not used to raising money for a media outlet in the crossfire of politics.

Despite all her high-level experience, Vivian Schiller, too, was new to being "steeped in so much seething politics," as Brooke Gladstone, host of WNYC's "On The Media," told Rehm. Nor did Schiller have "the keenest ear" in dealing with the public or the "political intrigue" that dogs NPR these days, Gladstone added.

The supreme example of her unkeen ear was firing Williams in a way that made it seem like his offense was either saying he sometimes got nervous around Muslims on planes (and adding that we shouldn't stereotype like that), or saying it on Fox News. Shepard said NPR had "a long list of issues" with Williams and should have just let his contract run out.

A lower-profile misstep was the thank-you press release in which Vivian Schiller called Obama's budget "a vote of confidence" in NPR and said she was "grateful to the Obama administration." That was viewed as less than helpful by some inside NPR, since it cemented an impression of public broadcasting as a Democratic cause.

In fact it's only recently that public broadcasting has become a party-line issue. In 1995, for instance, five Senate Republicans -- William Cohen and Olympia Snowe of Maine, William Roth of Delaware, Charles Grassley of Iowa and John Warner of Virginia -- voted to restore funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS, NPR and local stations. Four years later, Jim Jeffords of Vermont voted against killing an increase in CPB funds. As recently as 2007, 127 House Republicans joined 230 Democrats to defeat an amendment to eliminate CPB.

There are still Republicans who love public broadcasting, but they no longer love the 10 percent of its budget (currently $430 million) that Congress provides. California Rep. David Dreier is a fan in that category. Last month he voted for the House budget that ended federal funds for CPB, though his preference would be to phase out the money over a transition period.

Some unlikely people agree with Dreier. One of them is me. And another is Ron Schiller, who told his "Muslim" dining companions that ending the money would allow NPR more independence and encourage more philanthropists to give. "It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding," Schiller said. "NPR would definitely survive and most of the stations would survive."

(An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information from a PBS official. A PBS development executive met with members of the same fake Muslim group as NPR and, like NPR, decided against accepting a gift).


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Extended News; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: congress; democrats; jamesokeefe; npr; obama; pbs; publicradio; publictelevision
The University of Chicago is where admitted terrorist Bill Ayers works to undermine the education of our children. It's where Mr. Obama was a lecturer. It was originally funded by the Rockefellers and the NWO/One World/Globalist crew, IIRC. I could go on and on. So why is it surprising that an NPR official with that background would have a dim view of the Tea Party Movement, the GOP, Israel, the Jews and conservatism?
1 posted on 03/09/2011 9:04:45 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Good article. Brings to mind the descriptive phrase, “Too smart for their own good.”


2 posted on 03/09/2011 9:09:09 PM PST by La Lydia
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Maybe I’m just mean and vindictive, but I absolutely love to see these liberal elitists fall off their pedestals. Especially Vivian Schiller who so casually insulted Juan Williams (”one of their own”) and managed to keep her job that time....seeing her lose it now is twice as sweet.


3 posted on 03/09/2011 9:10:48 PM PST by bigbob
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The Schadenfreude is excellent.


4 posted on 03/09/2011 9:11:49 PM PST by Pelham (California, formerly part of the USA)
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"We need to remind people of who and what we are."

Please keep it up.

Some of us have known it for a long time; the rest need to learn.

5 posted on 03/09/2011 9:11:54 PM PST by sionnsar (IranAzadi|5yst3m 0wn3d-it's N0t Y0ur5:SONY|http://pure-gas.org|Must be a day for changing taglines)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Talks about a tin ear. NPR/PBS types are oblivious to the gulf between ordinary voters and the Republican grandees like Cohen who share
most social views with liberal Democrats. They love NPR/PBS because they hear their own beliefs echoed when they listen to these programs. Reminder that the Culture War is class warfare.


6 posted on 03/09/2011 9:13:49 PM PST by RobbyS (Pray with the suffering souls.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Talks about a tin ear. NPR/PBS types are oblivious to the gulf between ordinary voters and the Republican grandees like Cohen who share
most social views with liberal Democrats. They love NPR/PBS because they hear their own beliefs echoed when they listen to these programs. Reminder that the Culture War is class warfare.


7 posted on 03/09/2011 9:13:58 PM PST by RobbyS (Pray with the suffering souls.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
"It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding"

We would all be better off if NPR ran without federal funding.

8 posted on 03/09/2011 9:14:01 PM PST by sionnsar (IranAzadi|5yst3m 0wn3d-it's N0t Y0ur5:SONY|http://pure-gas.org|Must be a day for changing taglines)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
"Williams was just starting to recede, and now this," the employee said. "We need to remind people of who and what we are."

Dear NPR employee, there are those of us who need no reminding of exactly who, and what you are. That's your real problem, in a nutshell. Those of us who know who and what you are, well, we're beginning to have our voices seriously heard. Read the "tea leaves", and shudder...

the infowarrior

9 posted on 03/09/2011 9:14:40 PM PST by infowarrior
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Vivian Schiller came to NPR after holding executive positions at the New York Times, the Discovery Channel, and CNN

She also got her undergraduate degree in Soviet studies and a master's in Russian (I sh*t you not).

How many of these commies ARE there?

10 posted on 03/09/2011 9:14:58 PM PST by Jim Noble (I'd crawl over broken glass for her. Alea iacta est.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I can’t believe how many millions of JudeaChristian Americans, the courageos blogger —who exposed NPR— has caused to smile this week...


11 posted on 03/09/2011 9:15:03 PM PST by Righting
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The Chicago connection jumped out at me too.

There is a Chicago-DC nexus about the entire Obama administration. Chicago trained operatives are increasingly being brought to DC to now affect millions with their communist beliefs.


12 posted on 03/09/2011 9:20:57 PM PST by exit82 (Democrats are the enemy of freedom. Sarah Palin is our Esther.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The University of Chicago is where admitted terrorist Bill Ayers works to undermine the education of our children.

Let's be accurate. Ayers was employed by the University of Illinois - Chicago. Not the same school as the University of Chicago.

And he no longer works there, being retired.

13 posted on 03/09/2011 9:22:05 PM PST by okie01 (THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Ignorance On Parade)
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To: Jim Noble

They are legion.


14 posted on 03/09/2011 9:23:39 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet ("You cannot invade the US There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass." Yamamoto)
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To: okie01

My bad, as the kids say.


15 posted on 03/09/2011 9:25:23 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet ("You cannot invade the US There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass." Yamamoto)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

the employee said. “We need to remind people of who and what we are.”

I think NPR has been doing that marvelously well.


16 posted on 03/09/2011 9:33:15 PM PST by csn vinnie
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
My bad, as the kids say.

No apology necessary. An easy enough mistake to make.

But, as you know, an argument is more credible when all the facts are straight.

17 posted on 03/09/2011 9:34:02 PM PST by okie01 (THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Ignorance On Parade)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
“She added, incredulously: ‘You meet with complete strangers and you blab your personal opinions in public? You don't think that maybe you're going to be a target at NPR?’”

IOW, she agrees with his views 100% but is just upset that he was stupid enough to get caught.

18 posted on 03/09/2011 9:42:23 PM PST by decal (Voting for a Liberal is nothing but second-degree theft.)
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To: Pelham

Can we just add an “R” and call them “Schriller and Schriller?”

So fitting for leftist whining MSM blowhards.


19 posted on 03/09/2011 9:57:45 PM PST by Uncle Miltie ("And did you exchange a walk on part in a war, for a lead role in a cage?")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

NPR needs to be defunded immediately if not sooner! If I may paraphrase a line from Billy Joel’s “My Life”,”you can speak your mind/ but not on my dime...”


20 posted on 03/09/2011 11:28:29 PM PST by Impala64ssa
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To: Uncle Miltie

That last name is not very common. I’m amazed those two aren’t related.


21 posted on 03/10/2011 12:41:03 AM PST by chopperman
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To: chopperman

Actually, it was a descriptive adjective, not a name - Shiller, i.e. one who Shills (v) for liberal democrats. Giving my money to NPR to report DNC talking points to elect Democrats to give them more of my money is an exact equivalent to being forced to give union dues to government service unions that spend it to elect more ‘rats. THE JIG IS UP.


22 posted on 03/10/2011 1:54:48 AM PST by epluribus_2
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To: epluribus_2
"but, but, its so unfair! ..."
23 posted on 03/10/2011 7:15:20 AM PST by rahbert
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To: chopperman

As my very conservative Jewish wife said upon hearing their names without prompting, “They’re both Jews!”


24 posted on 03/10/2011 9:02:09 AM PST by Uncle Miltie ("And did you exchange a walk on part in a war, for a lead role in a cage?")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Another interesting point:

"After the lunch, NPR determined MEAC and the $5 million offer to be fake, but not before Schiller was captured on tape..."

So Nipper didn't reject the money on any moral grounds--say its association with a terrorist group. How do you reject something that never existed in the first place?

Sounds like massive CYA effort in the hallowed halls.
Somebody could write a best-seller.

25 posted on 03/10/2011 10:39:26 AM PST by tsomer
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