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Posted at 6:42 PM ET, 03/11/2011

Fundraisers not entirely on autopilot at NPR

By Jonathan Capehart

National Public Radio is in full defensive crouch. In the wake of the James O'Keefe sting, the CEO and the chief fundraiser have been sent packing. And now the bosses have released e-mails that prove that the $5 million offered by the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center was never accepted.

Dave Weigel runs the e-mails in his post at Slate. All the right questions were asked and the right things were said. They asked for proof of MEAC's nonprofit status. They wanted the group's 990 form. They said they understood the desire for anonymity but made it clear that the gift would have to be reported to the IRS. Bravi!

Here's the problem: The meeting that led to the exchange of e-mails between NPR and the prospective donor should never have happened.

The first "something's fishy" e-mail was sent from Vivian Schiller, the bounced CEO, to top staffers, including Betsy Liley, on March 3. The ill-fated lunch between Liley, Ron Schiller, the now-former president of the NPR Foundation and senior vice president for development for NPR, and representatives from MEAC took place the previous week on Feb. 22.

Had NPR before that lunch done the due diligence that we now know they did after the fact perhaps Schiller (no relation to Vivian Schiller) and Liley would have begged off supping at Cafe Milano. And they would have denied O'Keefe another sting victim had they politely ended the lunch meeting the moment one of the men said MEAC was connected with the Muslim Brotherhood.

I'm glad the e-mails are out there. They show that NPR's development office isn't totally running on autopilot. But events of this week have given ammo to Republicans and conservatives who would love nothing more than to zero out NPR's federal financial support.

"We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world," NPR journalists wrote in an open letter to listeners and supporters today. "With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever."

Thanks to a stunning lack of judgment that determination and support might be needed sooner than they expect.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 11, 2011; 6:42 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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At Glen Beck's website, The Blaze, a long story with unedited clips details how O'Keefe edited and doctored this video to excise all the positive things Schiller said about Republicans, to make his other comments appear as if they responded to dreadful things suggested by his "Muslim" guests, and in general to grossly distort this entire interview in order to smear NPR.

I am disgusted that nobody in the MSM questioned the veracity of O'Keefe's "Veritas" project -- given his well-proven record of deceit and distortion -- and that everybody, including NPR's executive board, rushed to condemn the victims of this sting without questioning the perpetrator. I also can barely believe that it was Beck's website, and in particular Scott Baker of all people, who have exposed this.

Where is the outcry now?

Posted by: ElizaJane2 | March 11, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

gimme a break,eliza jane,o'keefe just keeps busting liberal tax sucking hacks of all types and they go down.these folks woulden't be quiting their do nothing for something jobs if they were innocent.also i notice capehart is being "conservative" in his defence of npr because o'keefe just might have another bomb to drop.isn't that right,capehart?

Posted by: alamodefender | March 11, 2011 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan -

You've really got a point there - had NPR done its due diligence before the Cafe Milano soiree, they would not have met with the sting crew, and would have been able to keep their opinions to themselves, only to appear (as they usually do) in the perspective, orientation and slant that is painfully evident in a lot (not all, but a lot) of their programming. Face it - there are a lot of folks whose political and social world view is supported and reinforced by a lot of NPR's programming, and they are more than happy to support it (just as a lot of Fox viewers support its opposite perspective, orientation and slant by providing the audience that its advertisers pay for).

In a country and a government of limited resources, those functions that can (and do largely already) support themselves should be required to do so, so that the tax burden on the populace can be lessened and/or so that more funding is available for other worthy causes that are not as fortunate as to have developed their own base of non-governmental financial support. It's a big country, and there is room in it for a wide range of views on any number of issues of public interest, but there is little if any justification to provide a government handout - however relatively small - to only some of the voices or points of view that are attempting to engage themselves in and/or shape the conversations. Let the best ideas be voiced and draw whatever support - financial and intellectual - they can on their merits; don't turn the process into one where the ideas with an inside track to government funding are therby advantaged over the other ideas who look exclusively to the marketplace of ideas for their support.

Posted by: TaxedtotheMax | March 11, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey! Gonna get you 2...and another one bites the dust...

Let the shallacking continue!

Posted by: adamnescot1 | March 11, 2011 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I love NPR and have listened on the car radio for over three decades...nothing like it. I'm also a true conservative and have been for those same three decades. I believe in minimalist government, low taxes, and private, charitable funding of the arts and of NPR. I was pleasantly surprised you did not make excuses for NPR in the Liley and Ron Schiller matter; but also disappointed you implied their behavior was an abberation. It was not. The culture of NPR is and has been unmistakably Leftist, insular, and hopelessly smug for a very, very long time. But, that's OK. My conservative sensibilities respect and appreciate the good things NPR does in spite of their culture and ideology. In fact, in my own open-minded, true-conservative, live-and-let-live way, I find even the smugness endearing, as long as I am not forced to finance it. It's past time for NPR to stop gobbling down it's slop at the public trough. And, although I appreciate that you did not paint me and other conservatives with the customary racist brush because we disagree with you...about's past time to stop pretending NPR is not hopelessly, although quaintly, even charmingly, a monument to Left-wing sensibilities, and let them come out of the closet, for Pete's sake!

Posted by: LibRT | March 11, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's see if we can get on point here. 1. The federal funds for public broadcasting go to the Corp for PB to be distributed by a formula in its legislation primarily to local stations. After 10 percent off the top for administration, mandated payments to 5 minority production consortia and to independent production groups, the remaining 90 percent is split with 75 percent going to TV and 25 percent to radio. 2. The radio dollars go to the local stations in two ways a) as local community service matching grants as incentive and proportional for raising local dollars, and b) as program grants specifically for the production or purchasing of programs. Nowhere in the formula are any funds directed to NPR. NPR is an association formed by the stations to provide services that the local stations cannot provide for themselves. Those services include satellite operations, promotional materials and programs. NPR is not the sole provider of programs and must compete in the marketplace with other providers. Local stations make the choice in all cases. Local stations have local licensee boards and local community advisory boards as mandated by law. All program decision-making is done locally and no one can tell the local stations what to air or when. The funding formula is structured so that those stations in the most rural and least populated areas get a larger percent of their total budget from federal funds. That is to provide equity for those locales that do not have the financial resources to fund a broadcast station on their own. Now try talking about this subject with some factual information.

Posted by: DaBrugg | March 12, 2011 7:27 AM | Report abuse

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