The recently announced upcoming departure of NPR CEO Gary Knell serves as a useful time to look at the history of NPR leadership. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, NPR insists that it doesn’t play favorites in its news coverage of political parties. One indication of NPR’s actual commitment to being nonpartisan in its news coverage is its choice of President/CEO. Just from what is publicly known about NPR’s nine leaders over the past 42 years, most were known to be devoted Democrats before being hired. None were known to be Republicans (even liberal Republicans).
NPR’s first two leaders had no public history of partisan activity. The NPR board can’t take much credit for that, though. The first leader, Don Quayle, was picked before NPR was even broadcasting. The second leader, Lee Frischknecht, a life-long friend of Quayle’s and already second in command at NPR, was hand-picked by Quayle to take over at NPR, so that he could move on to another job. Those were unique cases.
Former National Public Radio president Vivian Schiller, who was at the center of a pair of controversies that roiled NPR in recent months, has reportedly taken a position with NBC News.
Schiller resigned from her post at NPR after footage surfaced showing two of NPR's senior fundraising executives making offensive comments towards conservatives. Though Schiller was not in the video, she accepted responsibility as president of the organization. Schiller also came under fire for her handling of the firing of Juan Williams late last year. She was forced to apologize for suggesting that Williams should seek psychiatric care.
As her term wraps up, NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard explored the controversial $1.8 million donation from leftist hedge-fund manager George Soros and his Open Society Institute, and how NPR tried to talk its way out of the idea that it was a liberal media outlet taking money from a major liberal agitator of means. Shepard reported executives there determined “it would be wrong to turn down money because of someone's political beliefs and based on how it looked.”
"OSI Foundations met NPR's qualification criteria for funders," said Dana Davis Rehm, NPR's spokesperson. "They understood and accepted our terms – chief among them the prohibition of any effort to influence editorial decision making. Our acceptance of the grant was based on principles of independence and fairness, and we stand by it."
After the public shaming of NPR this week, Nina Totenberg was given the option of taking a day off from PBS's "Inside Washington" so that she wouldn't have to face the music concerning the so-called "news organization" she works for.
Demonstrating admirable spunk, Totenberg showed up to "defend the product" her radio station produces only to have Charles Krauthammer say in the midst of a lengthy discussion about the issue, "If the product is so superior, why does it have to live on the tit of the state?" (video of entire segment follows with transcript and commentary):
Since an undercover sting video was released on Tuesday showing National Public Radio executive Ron Schiller calling conservatives "seriously racist people" – for which he resigned – CBS News has failed to utter a single word about the controversy on its broadcasts. That despite NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron) also being forced out on Wednesday.
In contrast, ABC had a full story on Wednesday's Good Morning America and it led World News that night. On NBC Wednesday, Today only featured a news brief on the scandal, but a full story was featured on the Nightly News.
It is a bloodbath over at National Public Radio. First the pinhead Ron Schiller resigns after initially being defended by NPR and then, by the end of the day Tuesday, being given the Shuffalo to Buffalo. Then Vivian Schiller, no relation to Ron Schiller, resigns the next day as chief executive officer and president of NPR. Ron Schiller was caught on tape saying NPR did not need its subsidy from the federal government to survive, but I guess the board of directors of NPR is taking no chances. Off with both of the Schillers' heads.
Actually, NPR and its affiliates are among the most overstaffed and extravagant operations in media. In the 1990s, when I did "The Editors" — a television show from Montreal that appeared on public television stations (because of my presence, one had to be an insomniac to catch the show in Washington on WETA, a lamentable situation insisted on by Sharon Percy Rockefeller, the president of WETA and a Public Broadcasting Service board member) — the Montreal production company did the show for a pittance of what public television paid. I believe a Washington production would have outspent us by a 10-1 ratio. NPR is no different. Ron Schiller, who was NPR's fundraising chief, said it would survive the cuts, and doubtless it could. I say cut its subsidy. It has been in more scandals of late than Charlie Sheen. Off with all their heads.
NOTE: Updates will be posted below the break as they come in. Check in for all the latest developments.
In the wake of a video sting showing NPR executives making disparaging comments towards conservatives, National Public Radio announced Wednesday morning that it had accepted the resignation of its president Vivian Schiller. "The Board accepted Vivian’s resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past 2 years," said Board Chairman Dave Edwards.
The hidden-camera video, released Tuesday, showed NPR exec Ron Schiller, no relation to Vivian, calling the Tea Party "racist" and "xenophobic" and insisting that NPR would be "better off in the long-run" without the federal dollars that congressional Republicans have been seeking to rescind. A pair of NPR statements disavowed Ron Schiller's comments, and specifically rejected his claims regarding NPR funding.
Managing Editor's Note: NewsBusters publisher and Media Research Center president Brent Bozell sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees with oversight of NPR stating that PBS does not deserve a dime of taxpayer funding and that a government that is broke should not be in the business of funding a left-wing playground.
A portion of the letter sent by Mr. Bozell to Congress follows:
Only ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday highlighted claims by a NPR executive, caught in an undercover sting operation, that Tea Party members are "seriously racist" people. CBS's Early Show completely skipped the subject. NBC's Today allowed a brief mention during a news read.
GMA's Jake Tapper extensively highlighted quotes by the outgoing Ron Schiller: "The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian." In the tapes he can be seen adding, "They believe the term, white, middle-America, gun-toting – I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
Tapper noted that shows such as Sesame Street and Frontline are award-winning. He explained, "Republicans say, then, fine. They should be just well and good without federal funding."
In the wake of a stunning video revealing the truly deplorable opinions of one of its executives, NPR has accepted the resignation of President Vivian Schiller while putting Ron Schiller (no relation) on administrative leave.
Fox News's Juan Williams, who was disgracefully fired by the radio network last year for having the nerve to voice his opinion, lashed out at NPR Tuesday evening on the "Hannity" show (videos follow with transcript and commentary):
National Public Radio chief Vivian Schiller issued a flat denial Monday when asked whether NPR consistently puts a liberal spin on the news.
NPR strains to offer "journalism that presents no particular bias," Schiller claimed in a speech at the National Press Club. And far from being the bastion of liberalism its critics insist, Schiller claimed that NPR gets "a tremendous amount of criticism for being too conservative."
To the former claim, one need only look through the NPR archive here at NewsBusters to find a litany of examples undermining Schiller's denial. She says that presented with the accusation of liberal bias, she always asks for examples, so here are just a few from the archives:
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi was complete enough in his reporting on the internal NPR review of the Juan Williams firing on Saturday that he included financial numbers that NPR released on the bonuses of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller. The decision to cancel her bonus over that Fox-loathing fiasco was a six-figure decision:
According to tax records released by NPR on Friday, Schiller received a bonus of $112,500 in May 2010, about 17 months after she was hired by the Washington-based organization. This was in addition to a base salary of $450,000. The bonus was included in her hiring package, NPR said.
The preceding year, before Schiller's arrival, NPR paid out $1.22 million in salary, bonuses and deferred compensation to Schiller's predecessor, Kevin Klose, who retired that year. It paid another $1.22 million to Ken Stern, its president, who was forced out. Stern's compensation was swelled by a early buyout of his contract, according to NPR.
"She took the admission of my visceral fear of people dressed in Muslim garb at the airport as evidence that I am a bigot. She said there are people who wear Muslim garb to work at NPR and they are offended by my comments. She never suggested that I had discriminated against anyone. Instead she continued to ask me what did I mean and I told her I said what I meant. Then she said she did not sense remorse from me. I said I made an honest statement. She informed me that I had violated NPR's values for editorial commentary and she was terminating my contract as a news analyst."
Williams chose not to participate in the review (perhaps knowing his view of the firing was already quite public.) The idea that Weiss's departure is coincidental doesn't come across in the Board's findings:
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes drew a whirlwind of attention for using the German N-word in describing NPR's purge of Juan Williams in an interview with Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” Ailes quickly apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for the Nazi comment. But Brian Montopoli at CBS's Political Hotsheet blog took that story and dropped a real un-factual whopper about NPR's taxpayer subsidies:
Putting aside the Nazis comment, the claim that NPR (previously known as National Public Radio) uses government funding to "keep them alive" is questionable at best: Even when indirect funding is included, less than one tenth of NPR's budget comes from taxpayer dollars. It receives no direct federal funding for operations.
The National Public Radio (NPR) executive who fired Juan Williams is behind an effort lobbying for a new tax to be levied on private media outlets in order to finance a BBC-style state media, NewsBusters publisher and Media Research Center Brent Bozell told viewers of Fox Business Network's "Varney & Company" at 10:45 a.m. today.
NPR president Vivian Schiller is "part of a group which wants to essentially tax existing media companies... and use that tax money to create a national network of public broadcasting companies to put out a news broadcast on a national basis, like an American BBC," Varney noted.
"Let's put it another way, the attack on Juan Williams... wasn't really an attack on Juan Williams," Bozell replied.
Last night Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly aired an ambush interview that "O'Reilly Factor" producer Jesse Watters sprung on Vivian Schiller, National Public Radio's president.
Last week, Schiller fired Williams over the phone in reaction to a comment the Fox News contributor made on the October 18 edition of O'Reilly's eponymous program.
Schiller, no stranger to cable news -- she used to head up CNN's documentary division -- also put her foot in her mouth last week by flippantly dismissing Williams's comments on the "Factor" as something he should have kept between himself and his psychiatrist.
The Poynter Institute's Romenesko website published a memo (sent today, and leaked today) from Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news at National Public Radio insisting to the staff that they cannot attend the liberal Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rallies on October 30.
NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John [sic] Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.
Glynnis McNicol at Mediaite quipped: "No word on whether NPR issued a similar memo prior to Glenn Beck's rally in August…I’m going to hazard a guess it probably wasn’t needed." Uh, yes. It could be argued NPR already gave Stewart an extremely positive promotion on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on October 4. (It was a Gross-out.) Weiss also said it would be wrong to advocate for political issues -- that "you could not" advocate, ahem, in your day job at NPR:
Last week, NPR president Vivian Schiller took questions briefly on washingtonpost.com about the taxpayer-funded radio network. When the liberal-bias question came up, she claimed "NPR tilts left! NPR tilts right! Frankly, we hear it equally from both sides -- or should I say from ALL since most issues are not that linear. The fact is, NPR takes NO sides."
When someone discussed the regular commentaries of NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, she claimed: "Dan Schor [sic] is a liberal commentator. I will not deny that is true. So what do we do about that? We balance his views with those of conservative guest commentators who frequently appear on our airwaves."
But what if those conservative guests just happen to take a stand NPR likes? Case in point: on Tuesday night’s All Things Considered, NPR touted a Sarah Palin book review by "conservative columnist" Rod Dreher, who concluded: "She quotes her father's line upon her resignation this summer as Alaska's governor: Sarah's not retreating, she's reloading. On evidence of this book, Sarah Palin is charging toward 2012 shooting blanks."
Speaking of blanks, did Dreher really read the whole book? On his Beliefnet blog yesterday, Dreher blogged at 12:35 pm that he was 100 pages in. All Things Considered starts airing locally at 4 pm. Did he really finish the book and write a script before the taping?