On Tuesday, conservative activist James O'Keefe posted a video showing NPR executive 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. The men offered NPR a $5 million donation and engage in a wide-ranging 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 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 and PBS.
Similar efforts to strip funding from public broadcasting in 2005 and in the 1990s were unsuccessful.
Vivian Schiller was criticized for last year's firing of Williams after he said on Fox News that he feels uncomfortable when he sees people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes. She later said she was sorry for firing Williams over the phone and that he deserved a face-to-face meeting.
"We took a reputational hit around the Juan Williams incident, and this was another blow to NPR's reputation. There's no question," she told AP.
Schiller said she and the board concluded that her "departure from NPR would help to mitigate the threat from those who have misperceptions about NPR as a news organization."
NPR board chairman Dave Edwards said NPR would make a strong case about the importance of federal funding.
"It is absolutely true that without federal funding, a lot of our public radio and public TV stations in the system could go dark, and that will happen in some of the smallest communities we serve," Edwards said. "In some cases, public broadcasting remains that community's primary connection with the outside world."
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 website, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.
O'Keefe also pleaded guilty last May after he was accused of trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu's office. He pleaded guilty misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine.
NPR said it was appalled by Ron Schiller's comments. Schiller, who was president of its fundraising arm and a senior vice president for development, told NPR he planned to leave to become director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program before the video was made public. The Aspen Institute confirmed Wednesday that 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.
O'Keefe asked supporters to sign a petition urging Congress to review NPR's funding.
"We've just exposed the true hearts and minds of NPR and their executives," O'Keefe said on his website.
CPB is getting $430 million in the current fiscal year, although NPR only gets about 2 percent of its revenue from the federal government. Government funding accounts for about 10 percent of the budgets of its member stations.