A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
In the latest controversy involving NPR, President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned. This comes after a hidden camera video was released of another executive criticizing conservatives and saying the network would be better off without federal money. NPR said it was appalled by the comments. Public funding for NPR came under fire last fall after it fired news analyst Juan Williams for comments he made on Fox News about Muslims. We focus on what the latest incident means for the network and public broadcasting as a whole.
- Tucker Carlson Political commentator and founder of The Daily Caller.
- Patrick Butler President and C.E.O of the Association of Public Television Stations.
- Alicia Shepard NPR ombudsman.
- Brooke Gladstone Host of "On The Media."
- Paul Farhi Staff writer at The Washington Post
- David Edwards Director and general manager, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio; chair of the NPR board.
- Stephen Moore Chief economist, The Heritage Foundation.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Vivian president, CEO of NPR resigned this morning. Yesterday, on a hidden camera, video another NPR executive was caught on tape criticizing conservatives and he said The network would be better off without federal money. Joining me in the studio to talk about what the latest developments mean for public broadcasting and efforts to eliminate federal funding, Patrick Butler.
MS. DIANE REHMHe's president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations and NPR Ombudsman, Alicia Shepard. Later on in the hour we'll hear from others who are very involved in the works of public broadcasting and otherwise know a great deal. Joining us first by phone is Tucker Carlson. He is the founder of "The Conservative Daily Caller." Good morning, Tucker, thanks for joining us.
MR. TUCKER CARLSONHey, Diane.
REHMHow did you manage to break this story?
CARLSONWell, one of our reporters was speaking to the guy who shot the hidden camera video and learned of its existence and we got it up first. We didn't do it. We didn't have any role in making it (unintelligible) ...
REHMAnd the fellow who was caught on tape is Ron Schiller, no relation to Vivian. What was he saying?
CARLSONHe was essentially doing what all fundraisers do, sucking up to a prospective donor. In this case, two men posing as representatives of a Muslim group related to the Muslim Brotherhood and in the course of their lunch at Café Milano in Georgetown, he spoke dismissively of evangelical Christians and of Conservatives and Republicans saying that they are stupid and racist and uneducated and basically repeating the kind of familiar Liberal catechism about the about the rite.
REHMTell me whether the tapes were actually vetted to verify that they were not altered?
CARLSONWell, they apparently were not altered. I mean, according to NPR, they weren't. I don't know what you mean by vetted...
REHMWell, before it...
CARLSON...Schiller said, what he said on the tape I don't' think anybody's claimed otherwise unless I've missed it.
REHMAnd you don't think that anybody put in dialogue that shouldn't of been there or that wasn't there to begin with?
CARLSONI don't think anyone has made that claim and I don't imagine that Vivian Schiller would've resigned had that been the case. Again, I may not be up on the latest, but I don't think anybody is making the claim that Mr. Schiller didn't say what he appears to say on the tape.
REHMWhy do you think "The Daily Caller" got it first?
CARLSONBecause our reporter happened to be talking to James O'Keefe, I think, is the real answer. And I thought it was an interesting story.
REHMTell us who James O'Keefe is?
CARLSONJames O'Keefe is the filmmaker, provocateur, guerilla documentary guy who apparently set up this undercover video of the head of the NPR foundation, speaking to two men, as I said posing as representatives of the Muslim foundation. He is not an employee of any news organization. He has his own foundation, he's conservative. His job is, to some extent, to drive Liberals crazy.
CARLSONHe's known for a couple other undercover tapes he's produced, most famously one in which he and a co-worker, I guess, went in to a bunch of Acorn offices posing as a pimp and prostitute and caused a great deal of trouble for Acorn. I didn't think that this was sort of, you know, earth shattering. In its most basic revelation, which is that, you know, somebody from the NPR foundation dismisses Conservatives out of hand. I mean, that's a pretty common view among people in news organizations not just NPR. I know a lot of people who work at NPR and I think a lot of them probably share that view too.
REHMTucker, I gather you actually do give money to your own station in Maine, is that so?
CARLSONYes, I was at NPR every day, driving to work, my nine-minute commute in Washington. I like car talk on the weekends. Yes, I like NPR. That's not -- and so, look, the point -- I mean, they said we were making a point and we weren't really, we're just reporting what we saw as news and I think its proved to be news. But since then, I have opinions of this and there are these.
CARLSONOne, it's not a shock that a lot of people who work at NPR are liberal, everyone knows that. I know that by my own experience. I don't think anyone would deny that or that, you know, that some of those Liberal views are, you know, aggressive and dismissive of Conservatives. The point is, and I would never that NPR is bad and shouldn't exist, again I like NPR. The question is whether they ought to take federal money.
CARLSONWhether taxpayer's ought to be coerced into supporting a news organization and I think there's a lot of evidence that it causes NPR trouble because the second you take federal money then you're accountable to taxpayers.
REHMOkay. Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, is here with me. She's got a point to make.
MS. ALICIA SHEPARDWell, you asked the question about whether or not the tape had been vetted and when I first saw Tucker Carlson's or "The Daily Caller's" story that was the absolute first question to me to ask NPR to make sure that NPR wasn't reacting too quickly based on seeing this video. And I sent an e-mail to Ron Schiller and he said, "Yes, it had been heavily edited." But he said, "I did say some of those stupid things."
MS. ALICIA SHEPARDSo I think that's one thing that has to happen with the news media all the time is you get these videos, you need to make sure they are what they are. With the tools that we have out there today anything can be edited. There seem to be one part where I thought, I'm wondering if Ron Schiller's really responding to that question. Regardless, he said what he said.
REHMPat Butler, what was your reaction to the video?
MR. PATRICK BUTLERWell, I thought it was indefensible, inexcusable, reprehensible, I mean, it goes against the ethic of everything we try to do in public broadcasting. What we try to do is to be as civil, as balanced, as fair, as comprehension as we can be in the coverage of news and everything else that we do. And what Mr. Schiller was saying is exactly the opposite of that.
REHMBut would you agree with Tucker Carlson that what he heard was not a shock, that NPR is presumed to be more liberal and that he was being, Ron Schiller, was being more aggressive than usual perhaps.
BUTLERWell, I do disagree with Tucker's premise here. The American people who are the ultimate judge of these matters consider NPR and PBS to be the most trusted sources of news and information in the country by a considerable margin and that goes across the ideological spectrum from liberal to Moderate to Conservative and those same poll numbers have stood up for several years across many people's different surveys.
BUTLERSo I do question the premise that we are automatically perceived as liberal by everybody. That's clearly not true, I mean, there is a coterie of people here in Washington who feel that way and I understand that, but that's not the way the American people...
REHMGo ahead, Alicia.
SHEPARDCan I add that it's actually insulting? Because the journalist at NPR and in all news mainstream news organizations are first and foremost professionals and what they believe or their personal agendas or the issues that they support are not at the forefront of their doing journalism. Every journalist -- all of three of us have opinions, but when we go out there and report, we try to be fair and get all the information.
CARLSONBut can -- may I say one thing?
CARLSONI had a show at PBS for years. I have some sense of the internal dynamics, not a world expert, but know a little about it. And I would say I'm at very, very -- in fact, I can't think of one person I met in the PBS universe who wasn't personally liberal politically and the same goes for the many people I know at NPR. I agree that most people in public broadcasting are honest and try to keep their political views out of their news cover.
CARLSONOn the other hand, if every single employee at NPR and PBS was from Provo, Utah and had gone to BYU, would it affect the news coverage, of course, it would. Whenever you get a large group of people who think the same in general and have generally the same assumptions about life and culture, it's going to produce a cast to the coverage and I don't think any serious person is (word?) as to the point that they're the most trusted news word organizations, I've said and I'll say it again, I listen to NPR and like it.
BUTLEROn the other hand, PBS is far from the most watched news network. Fox is actually. And so, you know, you can ask people all you want, but watching behavior is always a more accurate measure than asking opinions and more people watch Fox. So what does that tell you?
REHMI don't want to get into a debate about numbers, but here's what I do not understand. Why did this NPR executive go into that meeting, go into a luncheon without vetting the people he was going to meet for lunch? Pat Butler, you said this happened at PBS.
BUTLERWell, I'm advised by PBS executives that Mr. O'Hara or one of his representatives...
BUTLER...I'm sorry, O'Keefe, excuse me. Mr. O'Keefe had made the same kind of entrée to PBS, but that PBS, in its due diligence, discovered that this was more of a scam than a bona fide offer and declined to participate in his initiative. I'm very sorry that NPR didn't do the same kind of due diligence in advance and here we are.
REHMAnd that's the question for you, Alicia, how could this have happened?
SHEPARDWhen Ron Schiller was announced as the new fundraiser 18 months ago, he came with a stellar reputation and almost people believed he would the savior of public radio and you have to question his judgment. You meet with complete strangers and you blab your personal opinions in public? You don't think that maybe you're going to be a target when you're at NPR?
REHMAlicia Shepard, she's NPR's Ombudsman. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back. We're talking about the resignation, if not the forced ouster of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller. She resigned after a video went viral showing that the chief fundraiser for NPR, whose name is also Schiller but has no relationship to Vivian, was caught on videotape talking in very disparaging comments about conservatives. And talking to people he assumed, without having previously checked, presumed were going to be large donors to NPR. And joining us now is Brooke Gladstone. She's host of WNYCs "On The Media." Good morning to you, Brooke.
MS. BROOKE GLADSTONEGood morning, Diane.
REHMI would presume you are as taken aback as we all are.
GLADSTONEWell, I can't say that I'm shocked shocked. Maybe just shocked. The fact is is that Vivian Schiller found herself in a situation that she'd had no experience in handling. She never was used to handling the kind of scrutiny that comes with this job. She wasn't a CEO before, much less head of a non-profit -- much less the head of a membership organization that is steeped in so much seething politics. And although she did a great deal that was positive for National Public Radio, she didn't have the keenest year when it came to dealing with the public and dealing with the kind of political intrigue in which NPR keeps finding itself in Washington.
REHMWould you agree with that, Pat Butler?
BUTLERWell, I do think it takes a certain set of special skills to run NPR, particularly in the environment we're dealing with now. But I was with Vivian at the National Press Club on Monday where she was talking about the news coverage of NPR having improved the audience reach, having improved the financial strength, having improved over the two years of her tenure here. And I think those are great accomplishments that ought not be lost in this conversation.
GLADSTONEOh, goodness, I entirely agree. Not only has the news coverage increased enormously, but NPR is on a more solid financial footing. She reached out to the member stations and created a lot of really wonderful partnerships. She ushered NPR into the digital age, made it a leader with a brilliant website and a variety of other platforms. I think her legacy at NPR is really solid. I was just going back to the off-the-cuff remark after the Juan Williams affair and various other times, where in public she spoke as a human being rather than as a politician and has had to pay the price.
SHEPARDBrooke, I've -- it's Alicia Shepard -- I would -- my take on this -- and you've been at NPR a long time before you went over to "On The Media." NPR is only 40 years old and I think they've existed in a love vacuum for a long time and been the media darling. And now they're playing in the big leagues and I don't think they were prepared for that, and I think that's why we've seen what's happened in the last five months. What do you think?
GLADSTONEI wouldn't interpret the situation that way. I think that they have grown -- that NPR has grown step-by-step over the decades and has become a major source of news for very many people, especially as other sources of this kind of news have become much shakier and less comprehensive. I think that it's the political environment...
GLADSTONE...that has become more and more polarized. And I don't think that NPR is suddenly playing in the big leagues. I think that the New York Times and the major networks and any news organization that purports to be, you know, really down the middle fair finds itself subject to these kinds of charges and scrutiny all the time, NPR all the more so because its member stations receive public funding. Let's make it clear that NPR -- a lot of people misunderstand. They think NPR is public radio. It certainly is the most prominent face of public radio, but that money goes to member stations all across the country...
GLADSTONE...and they pay some of that in dues to NPR. But it's not a major source of NPR's funding or even of the station's funding.
REHMYou know, you talk about the question of a good year and you think about the former CEO of NPR...
SHEPARDKevin Close, yes.
REHM...Kevin Close, who had a very clear sense of the political fragility in which NPR existed. Wouldn't you agree, Brooke?
GLADSTONEI would agree that Kevin Close was very careful never to say anything that was controversial. And in his last few years, I think, was almost invisible.
SHEPARDWhen I said that they existed in a love vacuum, I think that they weren't prepared to deal with the kind of pushback that they got. So when the decision to hastily fire Juan Williams was made, I think everyone within the corporate level was taken aback by the reaction. And the same thing with the John Stuart rally, which there was a lot of blowback on. And that's what I meant by just, yes, they have certainly grown in the last ten years.
REHMAnd fact of the matter is that the political climate in this country has changed...
REHM...dramatically. And therefore, people need to be aware and need to be thoughtful about what they say, whether they're on camera, on microphone or just having lunch at Café Milano, Pat.
BUTLERWell, this is the conundrum that I just find fascinating here. We are living in very complicated times. This deficit at the federal level is just overwhelming. You know, people are reasonably looking for everything they can find...
BUTLER...to cut. But because the times are so complicated, because the world is so dangerous, I mean, the fact that we have programs like yours on public radio give the American people as citizens of this great democracy the kind of information and perspective that they need to make the decisions they have to make to make this democracy work. It's essential, to me. I mean, we've been told by some of our friends in Congress that we're a luxury that people can't afford anymore, and that's just not true. I think we need what you are doing and what public radio and television are doing more now than ever before.
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones and hear from some of our own listeners. First to Erin, who's in Springfield, Mo. Good morning to you.
ERINGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
ERINI have two points I wanna make, not really questions, per se, but points. And the first one is that in light of Mr. O'Keefe's track record with editing videos, anybody who would take a video that he made on faith as being complete without vetting it and checking it out and making sure that it was actually valid, that would just be foolish in light of his track record of editing things out that don't accord with the viewpoint that he's trying to push. And the number two thing I would kind of ask is, when did it become a firing offense for people to have opinions? I mean, this man was meeting with these people at a private luncheon with no expectation of being recorded. I mean, is it really required now for every employee of NPR to believe that every minute of every day they could be recorded and anything they say could be broadcast to the media? You know, I think -- and get them fired?
ERINI mean, I think, you know, it's to the point now where if you're a liberal person, you're not supposed to express your opinions in public for fear of being -- having something happen to you if you work for a news organization. I kind of wonder if you mike the cafeteria at FOX news what kind of things you might hear about liberals that would be just as offensive.
SHEPARDWell, first of all, Ron Schiller and the other woman in the development office were in a public restaurant representing NPR.
SHEPARDAnd Ron Schiller, these are my personal opinions. Well, that's fine, but you do -- really, would you go and sit down in a restaurant and share all your personal opinions with a complete stranger? And the other thing is that we have to realize now, whether we like it or not, we live in a society where the mike is always on, and anything can and will be used against you. And I...
SHEPARD...I just want, you know, young people in particular to realize that with the internet, Facebook, Twitter.
REHMSure. Of course. Brooke, you want to comment.
GLADSTONEYeah, well, I mean, I have to say that there certainly seems to be a double standard for organizations that try to report down the middle, like NPR, proving a kind of purity of thought that doesn't seem to bother people at FOX News. You know, you've got Roger Ailes who is alleged to have -- alleged to be caught on tape suborning perjury and nobody is firing that guy. On the other hand, I certainly, certainly, don't want to liken NPR to FOX News. What I'm saying is that in response to her question this is an incredibly sensitive period.
GLADSTONEOn the other hand, NPR gets criticized when it appears to overreact to political sensitivity. I mean, the firing of Juan Williams is a case in point. If we'd heard all of his remarks, we would've heard that he was using himself as an example of a kind of xenophobia that he wanted to get over and he wanted other people to get over. So it was as taken out of context as the Sheryl Sherrod's, you know...
SHEPARDShirley Sherrod, yeah.
GLADSTONEYeah, Sherrod's tape, the Agriculture Department staffer that was summarily fired by the Obama Administration who did not hear all of that tape. So there is a...
REHMSo -- so...
GLADSTONE...there is a tendency for people to rush to judgment.
REHMRight. So, Brooke, in your opinion was Juan Williams fired without good cause?
GLADSTONEI wasn't a fan personally -- speaking personally, I wasn't a huge fan of Juan William's reporting...
REHMBut put that aside.
GLADSTONE...but in this -- but in this particular instance, this was not a firing offense in my view.
GLADSTONEThis was a reflex.
REHMAll right. Ten...
SHEPARD...well, first, I want to make sure that I'm -- as the ombudsman, I'm independent of NPR. I'm not speaking for NPR, but as somebody who had to deal with complaints about Juan Williams, going back to October, 2007, when I started. NPR did a very poor job handling that. Vivian Schiller said it the other day. There was a long list of issues that NPR had with Juan Williams. And a better way would've been to let his contract run out and they should've explained it was not based on that one remark.
REHMAll right. And joining us now is David Edwards. He's general manager of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. He's chair of the NPR board. Good morning to you, Dave.
MR. DAVID EDWARDSGood morning. Good morning, everybody.
REHMThank you for joining us. Talk about your own reaction, not only to the video itself, but to the resignation of Vivian Schiller.
EDWARDSWell, Diane, let me start by commenting briefly about the video. When I saw it yesterday, and I realize that I was only seeing an excerpt of what I've been told was a two-hour meeting, at first it was very difficult for me to even watch the entire video. And I have to force myself to watch it because the comments that were being made as they were being presented in that video were -- I found so troublesome and so counter to everything that I have ever believed in throughout my career in public broadcasting. I know it's not what my colleagues on the board or colleagues at NPR felt and I was incredibly troubled by what I saw.
EDWARDSThe board obviously needed to have a conversation with our CEO Vivian Schiller. Vivian, I must say, has accomplished so much during her tenure within the organization, leading NPR through a period of great economic difficulty for the organization. She brought this incredible vision and energy to NPR and to our industry. We had to have a frank conversation with her last night about not only what transpired with this particular incident, with the way things have been going and with the way in which NPR needed to position itself and lead going forward.
EDWARDSWe felt that because of the series of unfortunate events that have occurred in recent months and most recently, that it all became a distraction to the organization. We felt that it hindered her ability to lead and so Vivian, you know, was very careful in saying to the board that she wanted to make sure that we could do what was right for the organization and our industry. And so the board reluctantly moved forward with accepting her resignation.
REHMDavid Edwards. He's general manager of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. He's chair of the NPR board and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Dave, was there no alternative but that Vivian Schiller leave?
EDWARDSWe felt it was the right thing to do going forward. You know, we -- while we certainly were appreciative of everything that she had done, we felt that -- as I said, that going forward we didn't want to have any distractions so that we could deal with the challenges that faced us going forward. So we thought it was the appropriate thing to do. We are very, very fortunate to have a leadership team in place at NPR so that going forward, you know, we have a team in place that can carry forward with all the initiatives that have been in place. Our interim CEO has been senior vice-president and general counsel of the organization. Joyce Slocum, in that role, has been involved in every major project that has been underway. And so we are feeling very confident that with her leadership and with the leadership of other members of the senior management team we will move forward.
REHMYou talk about the challenges ahead. How do you feel that both this video and Vivian Schiller's resignation will affect the thinking of members of Congress who want to zero out funding for public broadcasting?
EDWARDSDiane, you know, all of the controversies that have been surrounding NPR over the last six months or so have certainly complicated our fight to maintain federal funding. Just a few weeks ago we announced an initiative between NPR and the Association of Public Television Stations to form a public media association. It's an initiative which we thought was extremely important that would allow us to continue to make the case with federal funding for public broadcasting. That initiative moves forward. We will continue to be aggressive in stating our case.
EDWARDSWe have a very, very important message that we need to continue to convey to members of congress and to the American people as to why the investment of federal dollars is absolutely critical to the lifeblood -- as a lifeblood to many of our member stations around the country. Without that investment of federal funding many of our stations are vulnerable. They are at risk of being shut down, going dark. And in many of those communities those public radio and public TV stations are absolutely the connection that those communities have with the rest of the world. We're often surprised to hear that in this time of multiple media options (unintelligible) ...
REHMAll right. I'm afraid we're out of time. Dave Edwards. He's general manager WUWM, chair of the NPR board.
REHMWelcome back. We're talking about the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, what that means for public radio certainly, but also in the larger sense what it means for a reflection on public broadcasting at a time when Congress is considering certainly downsizing, perhaps even eliminating funding for public broadcasting. And joining us now is Stephen Moore. He's a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. Good morning, Stephen. Thanks for joining us.
MR. STEPHEN MOOREHi, Diane.
REHMWhat did you make of Vivian Schiller's firing, sorry, her resignation and the videotaping?
MOOREWell, I think it probably had to be done, the firing. I agree with Dave and I appreciated his comments by the way. I watched that video yesterday and he said that he was deeply troubled by it. I, as a Conservative, was deeply offended by it, the kind of characterizing of Tea Party folks as being kind of unenlightened and anti-intellectual and racist I thought was just offensive. And the real issue I think right now, Diane, is this issue of what's gonna happen to the funding of NPR. My belief -- and you know I've always -- I love being on your show. You've had me on many times. I've always appreciated that. I'm a contributor to public radio and WAMU in Washington. But I do think that this is something at a time when we have $1.6 trillion of deficits, there are things we just can't afford any longer. And this is something that has been on the chopping block. It was back on the chopping block in 1995 and '96 you may recall...
MOORE...it happened way back then.
MOOREAnd so I want to see this funded privately. The way I put it is I want National Public Radio to become National Private Radio.
REHMAnd, Patrick Butler, what do you think?
BUTLERWell, I think if you're gonna target public broadcasting to solve the deficit crisis, you would have to eliminate us 1,000 times to reduce the deficit from $1.6 trillion to $1.3 trillion. So targeting us is not going to solve any deficit problem. There's a different agenda going on here. And the problem is that remarks like Mr. Schiller made the other day obscure the fact that people across the political spectrum value what we're doing in public broadcasting. There was a poll that Peter Hart and Linda DiVall did just a week ago which suggested that 79 percent of the American people either want public broadcasting funding continued or increased. And even among Tea Party members -- self-identified Tea Party members, it's an even split between those who want to see it continue and those who don't.
REHMStephen Moore, what do you make of that?
MOOREYou know, I've heard that argument for 20 years, Diane, and it's probably right that people appreciate shows like yours and appreciate NPR news and things like that. And my attitude is it's a fairly affluent, well-educated group of people who -- not just affluent and well-educated people, but a lot of people who have the financial means to support this. And, Diane, I simply think that this should be funded with private dollars. I don't think it's appropriate to use public money at a time -- look, I understand that it's not a huge pot of money that public broadcasting gets, but we have to, you know, start prioritizing things. And the question is, you know, can the money that NPR gets, can that be better used for reducing our deficit or for other kinds of national priorities?
MOOREAnd so I do think -- I do think shows like yours and many of these affiliates will stay in business. They'll just have to go to people like George Sorosi. When I give speeches, I say, let George Sorose fund NPR if it's so important.
REHMStephen Moore, let me ask you this, while I appreciate the fact that you have come on the program, that you do contribute to WAMU, I wonder about your feelings about stations out in the rural areas that perhaps do not have...
REHM...the support that WAMU has here in the Washington area. How are they gonna stay in business?
MOOREYou know, quite frankly, I don't know. I mean, I'm not an expert on that. I would think -- hope that people from big cities like Washington and New York and Los Angeles would help contribute to keep those stations on the air if they're valuable. But, you know, the other thing that's changed so much in the last 20 years that I think is an argument against public broadcasting support is just that you have almost an infinite number of ways to get news and information now. You can -- anybody in any town or any city can go on the internet and get virtually any radio station or TV station that they want. And in that kind of environment, it's not the kind of monopolistic environment for news that it once was when NPR and Corporation for Public Broadcasting first started.
REHMAt the same time...
GLADSTONEDiane, can I come in here for a moment?
REHM...don't forget that rural areas may not be as completely wired to the internet as big cities like New York and Chicago. Alicia, I know you wanted to say something.
SHEPARDNo, Brooke wanted to jump in.
GLADSTONEYeah, no, I was going to make actually a similar point to yours, Diane. The idea that, you know, WAMU, which makes enough money to support its local news operation and do it very well, is not likely, as your guest suggests, to give money to a rural station. The rural stations, just like public schools, have to rely on their listeners and also from the help from government. And obviously, although you can go on the internet and access all kinds of radio and all kinds of news, the one kind among the many kinds of news that becomes less and less available is local news. Local news about the state house, local news about, you know, the state of the streets and the state of the local economy. These are the sorts of things that public radio at its best does...
GLADSTONE...and that is why it's been supported all of this time. I mean, as I said before, you have to remember that this money goes to the stations, not to NPR and...
GLADSTONE...this really isn't about one guy...
GLADSTONE...taking off his NPR hat in a Washington restaurant and shooting his mouth off.
REHMAll right. I want to bring in now Paul Farhi. He's the staff writer at the Washington Post. Good morning, Paul.
MR. PAUL FARHIHi, Diane.
REHMThanks for joining us. I know you were at David Edwards' press conference. Tell me about the reaction there.
FARHIWell, Dave is trying to put the best face on this as you can imagine and he's trying to say that this will help the system and public broadcasting move forward. I think what he's saying parenthetically is we are sending a message to Congress that we are dealing with this problem and we've dealt with the problem by getting rid of the CEO of NPR.
REHMDo you think that that's going to solve the problem?
FARHII asked him that very question. And his answer was effectively that we hope so. They are -- and, you know, NPR public television, public radio are in a fight for their lives with Congress. And it's an extremely critical and sensitive time. This could not have happened at a worse time for public broadcasting. And so they are panicking I guess. They are, you know, throwing the bodies overboard in an attempt to throw off the people who are out to get the funding. And this is their best response to it. You know, of course the CEO has to take responsibility for everything, but I think anybody looking at this closely realizes that this is not Vivian Schiller's doing, that she is going to be sacrificed for the good of public broadcasting. And the real question is, is it going to do any good?
REHMYeah, and that's the question for Stephen Moore. What kind of a difference is the retirement, resignation, firing of Vivian Schiller going to make?
MOOREI would say, Diane, close to zero. I mean, I think most members of Congress don't even know who Diane Schiller is and, you know, and so...
REHMYou mean Vivian Schiller.
MOORE...so I don't -- look, I think it's kind of -- I agree with this gentleman that she's sort of the sacrificial lamb here, but I think, you know, this fight is gonna be really fought I think in the halls of Congress over the marriage and the very argument that we've had on the air whether we can afford this, whether it's the best use of tax payer dollars. And one last point, the idea that -- I'll tell you this. I think a lot of Republicans are quite offended by the fact that NPR, as your previous guest was talking about, has this PR campaign now that is essentially being paid for with tax dollars to lobby for more tax dollars. I mean, I find that to be troubling.
BUTLERWell, just to be clear, the on-air appeals that are going on across the country in public television and radio stations are not funded by federal dollars. I mean, the way the system works is that for every dollar of federal funding, we generate about $6 in private funding from individual donors and foundations and corporations and such. And it's those funds that are being used to finance these on-air appeals.
MOOREThat's true, but, sir, I mean, look, money is fundable. And if you've got...
MOORE...if you've got dollars that you can use for a public relations campaign, I think Republicans can say, why don't you use that for the programming that you say is so much in jeopardy.
BUTLERWell, the -- you know, we've been through this issue before in 1995...
BUTLER...and 2005 and the GAO has investigated and found absolutely no fault with the way we are doing this appeal.
REHMAlicia, you wanted to comment.
SHEPARDWell, I just think that this is an issue that has just gotten so complicated, and that, you know, the issue should be NPR's fight and public radio's right in Congress and not be distracted by Vivian Schiller and Ron Schiller and Ellen Wise and Juan Williams.
REHMBut how can it help but be?
SHEPARDWell, at least now, you know, unfortunately 'cause I do think that she did an incredible job in turning the ship around at NPR, but that's not on the table. I'm not gonna be getting calls, fire Vivian Schiller, 'cause she's been fired. And, you know, fire Ron Schiller, they've been fired.
REHMHe's left. Brooke Gladstone, do you believe that letting Vivian Schiller is going to make a difference in what you do? Has this whole report sort of affected your thinking about how you'll go forward in reporting on the media?
GLADSTONEAre you saying is it going to create a chilling effect for -- on the media?
GLADSTONEIf it does, we have...
GLADSTONE...we have completely lost our raison d'etre, if that's the case. And we will continue reporting as we've always reported. We really have no choice. That's our brief. NPR has to continue reporting the way it's always reported. Let's face it. It's been on the chopping block, public broadcasting, since the '70s, since it first started doing the Watergate hearings. This is a political issue. It's not a financial issue. It will always be a touchy issue in Congress and there will be an opportunity every time there is Republican majority to cut it. On Friday, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn introduced legislation to cut it, to follow the Republican house and so it goes. I can't change what we do. I mean, there's no reason to exist if my existence is threatened by the political environment.
REHMAnd, Paul Farhi, do you agree with Brooke Gladstone that this is more political than financial?
FARHIWell, you can easily see that the people who want to cut the funding are Republicans. The people who have always wanted to maintain it are Democrats. You can draw your own conclusion from that. Listen, it's also a symbolic cultural issue here. There's a feeling that NPR, PBS are elitists. They appeal to an elite audience. That's not really true, but that's always the way this has been cast, going back to the mid '90s with Newt Gingrich and zeroing out public broadcasting. So political and cultural, it's a wedge issue, it's one of those issues in which you can define us and them. And Conservatives have used it very effectively for a very long time.
MOOREBut, Diane, can I say one thing?
MOOREI don't think too many liberals listening to this show would be too happy if their tax dollars were used to finance Fox News. Now, look, I mean, I think that NPR has improved in terms of its fairness and its coverage, but I still believe that it has a liberal bias. And so there is a reason why conservatives and Republicans have had their knives out for this for 25 years and it's precisely because (unintelligible) .
REHMNow, Stephen Moore -- Steve Moore, don't forget that at one point "The Diane Rehm Show" was in the gun sight of Ken Tomlinson for having too many liberals on and the liberals and the conservatives were counted up, for heaven sake. And absolutely, you know, I really resented that because we go to such lengths every single day to make sure that what we do...
MOORERight. Diane, I'm not talking about your show. I mean, your (unintelligible)
REHMWell, you know, it's funny. Everybody says that. All of the people who criticize NPR and public radio say to me, oh, but not your show. But my show is part of...
REHM...what represents public broadcasting.
GLADSTONEOh, no, Diane, you're one of the good ones.
GLADSTONENo. Actually what -- I just wanna say that fairness and accuracy in reporting which is a Liberal watchdog group has often counted up the talking heads across national...
GLADSTONE...public radio and found that right and right of center talking heads far outnumber the left ones. This is also true in the major newspapers and certainly, certainly on the networks.
GLADSTONEIf in fact most reporters are -- tend to be Liberal leaning in their own political convictions, they tend to overcompensate enormously in the voices that they put on the air and this certainly is (unintelligible)
REHMAll right. Patrick, go ahead.
BUTLERWe just have to get the politics right here. Public broadcasting has been in business for more than 40 years through Republican and Democratic administrations, Republican and Democratic Congresses.
REHMAnd I've been here 32.
BUTLERAnd you've been here almost all that time. And it's just not correct to characterize this as a Partisan issue. There are Republicans to this day who will vote with us to continue supporting public broadcasting on both the House and Senate side and I will not accept that characterization that this is Republicans versus Democrats.
SHEPARDWell, it's also a false equivalency to count up the number of guests because it ignores...
SHEPARD...the fact of what is happening in the news. Right now you have a Republican dominated House and they're doing a lot, there are going to be more Republicans on NPR. So to count up how many Republicans and Democrats would not show anything.
FARHIWell, yeah, I agree. On the other hand, the cultural wars are the cultural wars and NPR tends to be the symbol of the Republican ideology, you know, the Republican opposition. And it is true. And someone said to me another thing about this is you are more likely to get a Conservative listener to NPR than you are likely to get -- then you will have Conservative viewers of Fox News. There are more Conservatives listening to NPR than are watching Fox News.
FARHII find that interesting.
REHMAnd that's got to be the last word. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post, Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, Patrick Butler, CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations and Alicia Shepard, she's the NPR Ombudsman. Thank you all so much.
REHMThanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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