NPR CEO Vivian Schiller resigned today after meeting with NPR’s board of directors in the aftermath of a “sting” video.
The video, released on Tuesday, was made by the political activist James O’Keefe (of ACORN “pimp video” fame). In the video, a group of men posing as part of a Muslim organization approached NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (not related to Vivian) and talked about making a contribution of five million dollars.
Ron Schiller made some intolerant black-and-white remarks that we don’t consider very NPR-friendly.
Here’s what he said, and why the goodbye of NPR’s woman-in-charge makes me nervous:
According to the Christian Science Monitor, during the conversation with the men posing as a Muslim organization:
Mr. Schiller appeared to belittle ”uneducated Americans” who adhere unthinkingly to a conservative party line. He also characterized tea party activists as “seriously, seriously racist” and bemoaned the dearth of “educated, so-called elites” in the political debate.
For a news organization built to deliver the facts and respectfully consider opinions of all shapes and sizes, this was pretty harsh. NPR immediately said it was “appalled” by the statements.
But today, they went one step further by making a mutual decision to accept the resignation of Vivian Schiller. This all comes amid debates over taxpayer support of NPR.
It’s all making this busy parent pretty nervous. I rely so heavily on NPR for news. Not just the breaking-world-variety, but also the random stories and slices of life dug up and thoughtfully presented to me on, say, the drive home from preschool drop off.
I also don’t quite buy the rational that Vivian Schiller is responsible for the comments made by her fundraiser. What he said was damaging and revealed a more rigid mindset than what we imagine under the NPR surface. But is the prank “sting” video approach to journalism really a legitimate ground for judging someone’s character and the point of view of an organization? Are we now allowed to go around surreptitiously prodding just to see what we can get people to say?
Breaking up the leadership at this point feels little shaky to me. Like a kid wants to know that his parents are on solid ground and know what they’re doing — I want to know that NPR has their act together. I hope they’ve got a plan here.