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Vivian Schiller, NPR chief, resigns amid 'tea party' video fallout

A day after another executive resigns over comments he made in a 'sting' video demeaning 'tea party' supporters, NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller resigns. The board expresses 'deep regret' over her departure, which comes as NPR is embroiled in a battle over funding with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

March 09, 2011|By James Oliphant, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — — The chief executive officer of NPR, Vivian Schiller, has departed following tumult over comments made by a National Public Radio executive about the "tea party."

NPR made the announcement early Wednesday. "It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately," the public broadcaster said in a statement. "The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years."

David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent, reported the Schiller was pushed out by the board, but an NPR source with knowledge of the events who was not authorized to speak for the board, has contradicted Folkenflik's report, saying that Schiller resigned of her own accord.

The resignation comes at a dicey time for NPR. On Tuesday, a video featuring former NPR executive Ron Schiller (no relation) came to light. In the video, the work of conservative activist James O'Keefe, Schiller is heard demeaning tea party supporters as racists and "gun-toting" Christian fundamentalists who had "hijacked" the Republican Party. Schiller also said that NPR would be "better off in the long run" without federal support.

Ron Schiller had already accepted a job with the Aspen Institute before the controversy mushroomed, and resigned from NPR Tuesday night. But on Wednesday, the Aspen Institute said that "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."

Vivian Schiller had already taken significant heat for NPR's dismissal of commentator Juan Williams last fall, after Williams confessed to apprehension when seeing Muslims on airplanes. Williams' ouster became a cause célèbre for conservatives — and helped spark the O'Keefe project. NPR's top news executive, Ellen Weiss, resigned in January as a result.

NPR is embroiled in a battle on Capitol Hill with Republicans who want to eliminate all federal funding for the publicly supported media network. The Ron Schiller video gave new momentum to that effort, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) saying Tuesday that the video "clearly highlights the fact that public broadcasting doesn't need taxpayer funding to thrive, and I hope that admission will lead to a bipartisan consensus to end these unnecessary federal subsidies."

The video was part of a "sting" in which two men posed as members of the "Muslim Action Education Center," a fictitious organization the men claimed had ties to the "Muslim Brotherhood of America."

On Tuesday, NPR quickly distanced itself from Ron Schiller's remarks, saying it was "appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for."

NPR also asserted that it had turned down a purported $5-million donation offered by the representatives of the phony Islamic group.

Vivian Schiller joined NPR in January 2009 from the New York Times Co., where she had been vice president and general manager of nytimes.com.

Related:

NPR 'appalled' by its executive's 'tea party' remarks in video

Roger Ailes of Fox News: 'Nazis' are running public radio

NPR commentator Juan Williams loses job over Muslim remark

james.oliphant@latimes.com

Twitter: @jamesoliphant

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