March 9, 2011

Alumni at NPR in Spotlight After YouTube Racism Scandal

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Two Cornell alumni at NPR are enmeshed in a national scandal following the release of a controversial YouTube video Tuesday.

Vivian Schiller ’83, NPR’s chief executive officer, stepped down from her post Wednesday morning after Ronald Schiller ’86, NPR’s senior vice president for fundraising, was caught on film condemning the Tea Party as racist.

NPR’s Board of Directors accepted Mrs. Schiller’s resignation, saying that “controversies under Schiller’s watch had become such a distraction that she could no longer effectively lead the organization,” NPR’s website stated.

Mrs. Schiller, who is not related to Mr. Schiller, resigned approximately 24 hours after the video’s initial release. The 11-minute clip shows Mr. Schiller telling two men passing as Muslim donors that “Tea Party people” are “racist” and NPR “would be better off in the long run without federal funding.”

Mr. Schiller announced last week that he would be leaving his post at NPR to become the director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, according to NPR’s website.

However, following Tuesday’s events, NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said Mr. Schiller’s resignation was effective immediately, although his initial decision to leave NPR was not motivated by his conduct in the clip.

Tuesday’s scandal comes only months after the dismissal of former NPR News Analyst Juan Williams, who said on the Fox News Channel that he becomes nervous on airplanes when he sees people in “Muslim garb” and that NPR is an “all-white organization.”

James O’Keefe, a conservative activist whose selectively edited hidden-camera clips led to the disbandment of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now in March 2010, produced the video and said that the recording was made on Feb. 22.

Prof. Theodore Lowi, government, defended the Cornellians, arguing that the alumni were simply caught up in a larger ideological battle, where conservatives are using temporary scandals to cut off organizations’ funding in order to achieve their political goals.

“This is just like ACORN, where they bankrupted the organization … They were completely driven by ideology,” Lowi said. “[The conservatives] don’t see the value of public radio … and I’m proud to see a Cornellian in [public radio’s] defense.”

Original Author: Andrew Hu