WASHINGTON — NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday, a day after a hidden camera showed one of her executives calling the Tea Party racist and saying the news organization would be better off without taxpayer money.
The shake-up comes at a critical time, as conservative politicians are again pressing to end congressional funding for NPR. The White House has defended the funding, saying there remains a need for public broadcasting.
Schiller also faced criticism for her firing of analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims. She told The Associated Press the recent remarks made by her fellow executive Ron Schiller were outrageous and unfortunate, and her staying on would only hurt NPR's fight for federal money.
"I did not want to leave NPR. There's a lot of pressure on NPR right now," Vivian Schiller told AP.
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On Tuesday, conservative activist James O'Keefe posted the video showing Ron Schiller bashing the Tea Party movement. The video shows two activists, working for O'Keefe, posing as members of a fake Muslim group at a lunch meeting with Ron Schiller, who is not related to Vivian Schiller.
O'Keefe, best known for wearing a pimp costume in hidden-camera videos that embarrassed the community-organizing group ACORN, posted the NPR video on his Web site, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.
In it, the men offered NPR a $5 million donation and engaged in a discussion about Tea Party Republicans, pro-Israel bias in the media and anti-intellectualism.
"The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is ... not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic," Ron Schiller said in the video, referring to the Tea Party movement. "They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting — it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
NPR said it was appalled by Ron Schiller's comments. Schiller, who was president of its fund-raising arm, told NPR before the video was made public that he planned to leave to become director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program. The Aspen Institute confirmed Wednesday he would not be taking the job, in light of the controversy.
"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended," he said.
NPR has long been a target of conservatives who claim its programming has a left-wing bias. The budget bill passed by the House last month would end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports programs distributed on NPR.
Similar efforts to strip funding from public broadcasting in 2005 and in the 1990s were unsuccessful.
Vivian Schiller said she and the board concluded her "departure from NPR would help to mitigate the threat from those who have misperceptions about NPR as a news organization."