Ron Schiller told the truth.
National Public Radio's senior vice president for development, the network's top fundraiser, was fired last week after he was exposed in a video sting letting his hair down over lunch with two men posing as donors from a Muslim Brotherhood front group. Schiller's comments were "contrary to everything we stand for," NPR insisted when it announced his departure. "We completely disavow the views expressed."
Some of those views were certainly deplorable. Schiller described Tea Party members, for example, as "not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic . . . seriously racist, racist people." When the supposed Islamists complained that "Jews do kind of control the media," he nodded agreeably; when they expressed a desire to see "less Jew influence of money into NPR," he assured them that NPR is untainted by any "Zionist or pro-Israel" attitude, and added: "I mean it's there in those who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR." He also claimed that while liberals are "more educated, fair, and balanced than conservatives," they are dwarfed by the "very large un-educated part of the population" with its tacky "anti-intellectualism."
[UPDATE: A subsequent analysis of the full two-hour video taken during the lunch with Schiller -- not available when this column was filed -- suggests that his comments about Tea Party members and conservatives may have been taken partly out of context in the 11-minute edited "sting" version.]
How widely Schiller's bigotry is shared within NPR is an open question, though it's unlikely he would have risen to such a senior position if his views weren't in sync with those of his colleagues. "Even the least cynical of scandal-watchers would struggle to believe that the NPR board is surprised by the sentiments Ron Schiller expressed," the Columbia Journalism Review remarked last week. "He offered the same lazy liberal nostrums common at Washington cocktail parties and presumably very familiar to NPR staffers."
But when Schiller turned from casually smearing others to talking about NPR's finances, he spoke nothing but the God's honest truth.
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