Ron Schiller is/was the senior vice president for fundraising at NPR. (He is leaving very soon, and maybe now even sooner, for an arts funding job in Colorado, according to the NPR website.) Recently, he and a colleague were invited to lunch by a conservative activist, James O’Keefe, and his Project Veritas group–basically the right’s answer to the Yes Men–posing as the leader of a muslim charitable foundation interested in donating five million dollars to NPR. The lunch was secretly recorded, Ron Schiller said a bunch of things that he believed in, and now he is basically getting fired. Sure. That seems to be happening a lot lately! Everybody shut your mouths! But let’s look at some of the things that he said:
“The Tea Party is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian — I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move.”
“Tea Party people” aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”
Uh, both of those things are true? And so are most of the other things that Ron Schiller says in the video, which is posted after the jump:
Now, there are two sticking points that I see as being the real issues here:
1. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge or make any connection between who these men say they represent and the Muslim Brotherhood. (The Muslim Brotherhood preaches non-violence, but its main interest is establishing Muslim states. They’re one of the driving forces in the Egyptian revolution of the past couple months.) I think the main issue here is not so much vilifying the Muslim Brotherhood–although I am sure that is a goal of a Tea Party activist pulling off hidden camera long-cons–as it is that NPR needs to be careful who they take five million dollars from, and Ron Schiller should have done his due diligence better. OK.
2. Even more important, it would seem, is that Ron Schiller argues that NPR would be better off without federal funding! This is probably the least inflammatory and “controversial” of all his statements, but it certainly goes against NPR’s official position, and as such presents some real PR problems for a beleaguered organization whose funding process creates constant headaches and protracted culture-war flare-ups.
Other than that, uh, whatever? Like, the video makes a big deal out of the fact that the people from NPR were offered a limo to drive them to lunch and they accepted the limo. Really? That’s a thing? Because I will tell you this right now: I will accept ANY and EVERY limo that is offered to me, I don’t care who is providing the limo. “Oh really, Gabe? What if Hitler paid for the limo?” Yup. I’d take it. I’d tell the driver that we were making a brief detour before stopping at the restaurant (to which I am assuming Hilter has invited me) to take me to my TIME MACHINE. But everything that he says about the need for Muslim voices and how the spirit of anti-intellectualism in America, led by the Republican Party in general and the Tea Party in particular is very dangerous, all of those things are just straight up TRUE.
Even the NPR article about this “scandal” suggests that there is something untoward about how Ron Schiller laughs when one of the men jokes about calling NPR “National Palestinian Radio” just seems like such a non-starter. His job is to be a FUNDRAISER. That job is all about MAKING PEOPLE FEEL COMFORTABLE AND HAPPY. It was kind of a shitty joke? And I don’t think he even gets it? Did you guys read that article about laughter as social contract for the perceived power structure? I mean, come on now.
I’m not saying that Ron Schiller shouldn’t move on in his career. I don’t really care? This doesn’t seem to be one of the foundational crises of NPR’s and/or journalism’s and/or America’s future. Whatever. But can we please just for once stop pretending like we need to be deferential and respectful and give equal time to a loose-knit organization that AT BEST has some VERY flawed concepts about the tax code and at worst is just a nightmare collection of unfocused racists looking to get their hate juice all over EVERYTHING? Also, you guys, from now on: don’t
trust go to lunch in a limo with ANYONE! Even Hitler is probably up to no good. And if you do go to lunch in a limo with Hitler, check all of the teddy bears for hidden cameras.