Skip to main content

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller resigns

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Andrew Breitbart on NPR scandal
  • NEW: NPR broadcaster believes federal funding will continue
  • Schiller's resignation was accepted with "regret," the board says chairman
  • A former NPR exec apologized Tuesday night for remarks he made
  • In an undercover video, the former exec calls the Tea Party "racist" and "scary"

Washington (CNN) -- The chief executive officer of NPR resigned Wednesday after a series of controversies at the public broadcaster formerly known as National Public Radio.

A statement posted on the NPR website by board chairman Dave Edwards said the organization's board of directors accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation "with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years."

Schiller's resignation came a day after Ron Schiller, NPR's former senior vice president for fundraising, was shown in an undercover video calling the Tea Party "racist" and "scary" and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding. Ron Schiller, who is not related to Vivian Schiller, issued an apology Tuesday night and said his already-announced resignation would be effective immediately.

In his statement to NPR employees, Edwards said he recognizes "the magnitude of this news -- and that it comes on top of what has been a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community. The board is committed to supporting NPR through this interim period and has confidence in NPR's leadership team."

Joyce Slocum, NPR's senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, was appointed as interim CEO under a succession plan the board adopted in 2009, Edwards' statement said. The board will establish a committee "that will develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership," he said.

Diane Rehm speaks out on NPR controversy
Activist targets NPR in sting
2010: NPR CEO defends firing

Edwards credited Vivian Schiller with bringing "vision and energy" to NPR and leading it back from "the enormous economic challenges of the previous two years. She was passionately committed to NPR's mission and to stations and NPR working collaboratively as a local-national news network."

NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher said she could not confirm reports that Vivian Schiller was forced out.

Filmmaker James O'Keefe said Tuesday the video featuring Ron Schiller was part of a sting operation. He said the idea stemmed from an incident in October when NPR fired analyst Juan Williams after Williams said he gets worried when he sees people wearing Muslim garb on airplanes.

"My colleague Shaughn Adeleye who posed as one of the members of the Muslim Brotherhood was pretty offended with what happened with Juan Williams and he suggested looking into NPR after that incident back in the fall," O'Keefe told CNN's Brian Todd on Tuesday. "My other colleague, Simon Templar, came up with the idea to have a Muslim angle since Juan Williams was fired due to his comments. So we decided to see if there was a greater truth or hidden truth amongst these reporters and journalists and executives."

Williams has since been hired full-time by FOX News. His firing by NPR prompted criticism by conservative politicians who raised questions about government funding for the public broadcaster.

In an interview with CNN scheduled for broadcast Wednesday night on "John King USA," radio show host Diane Rehm said the criticism of NPR by conservatives is politically motivated.

"I think that what's happening here is that not only are they looking at the budget but they're looking at a way to silence public broadcasting," said Rehm, whose show is broadcast on NPR outlets across the country.

She rejected calls to cut off funding for NPR, saying the public broadcaster was established "to entitle people across the country to get a wide range of views and that's what it's done. Why shouldn't we keep on doing that? If public funding goes, the system out there is going to suffer."

Despite the current controversies, Rehm said she expects at least some of NPR's government funding to survive the current budget wars in Washington and the political onslaught by conservatives.

"I don't think public broadcasting is going to be zeroed out because I don't believe people across this country want to see public funding zeroed out," Rehm said. "I think they may feel that, like every other institution, it needs to be reduced because of the deficit, but not zeroed out."

O'Keefe gained notoriety for posing as a pimp and secretly taping damaging conversations with employees at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN). He was also involved in a failed plot to embarrass a CNN correspondent on hidden camera.

A PBS spokeswoman indicated Wednesday that her network also received an invitation from the men to meet for similar purposes, but broke off communication when an attempt to confirm the existence of their alleged organization proved "unsatisfactory."

In the NPR video, Ron Schiller and another NPR executive are shown having lunch with potential donors, who were really working undercover for O'Keefe, posing as representatives of a Muslim organization considering making a $5 million donation.

"Tea Party people" aren't "just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic," Ron Schiller says on the recording. "I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."

He went on to say, "The Tea Party is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn't even call it Christian. It's this weird evangelical kind of move."

In the video, Ron Schiller says that NPR, which is partially funded by government money, would be "better off without federal funding."

"The problem is that if we lost it now, a lot of stations would go dark," he said.

Late Tuesday evening, Ron Schiller issued an apology through NPR.

"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," Schiller said in a statement. "I offer my sincere apology to those I offended. I resigned from NPR, previously effective May 6, to accept another job. In an effort to put this unfortunate matter behind us, NPR and I have agreed that my resignation is effective today."

NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm on Tuesday condemned Ron Schiller's remarks, saying they "are contrary to everything we stand for ... and we completely disavow the views expressed."

"NPR is fair and open minded about the people we cover," said Rehm, NPR's senior vice president for marketing, communications, and external relations. "Our reporting reflects those values every single day -- in the civility of our programming, the range of opinions we reflect and the diversity of stories we tell."

Rehm also decried Ron Schiller's statement that NPR would be "better off without federal funding," saying it "does not reflect reality. The elimination of federal funding would significantly damage public broadcasting as a whole."

Ron Schiller previously said he had accepted a position at the Aspen Institute, an organization which, according to its mission statement, aims to "foster values-based leadership encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues."

The Aspen Institute said in a statement Wednesday that Ron Schiller will not be working there.

"Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it's in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here," the organization said.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.