Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.

Surreptitiously taped videos, posted online last week, captured NPRs former top fundraiser, Ron Schiller, making charged remarks about conservatives and evangelical Christians as well as other politically tinged statements.

Those remarks were repudiated by the network. Schiller's previously announced departure was accelerated, and NPRs CEO was ousted later that day.

I was among the NPR hosts who signed a letter of protest, saying we were appalled by his remarks on that video because it betrayed NPRs journalistic values of fairness, accuracy and respect.

But now, according to NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, that incriminating video may not tell the whole story. David has been covering this story from the outset; he's in the studio. David, what about it? Whats new?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, those videos were created by James OKeefe III in a sting against NPR. It's not first time he's gone after institutions he doesn't like. He's a guy who's a conservative activist. He also styles himself as an investigative, muckraking reporter. But in previous cases, others have raised questions. Prosecutors, for example, previously found he'd selectively edited videos in his sting against ACORN, and unfairly presented what folks had to say.

In this case, he posted an 11-and-a-half-minute video that ricocheted around the media landscape and then later posted what he said was largely the raw video and audio of the entire conversation with Ron Schiller.

The Blaze, which is sort of a conservative Huffington Post created by the Fox News opinion host Glenn Beck - The Blaze did an analysis. It found that a half-dozen moments, at least, were taken out of context or questionably presented.

I emailed James O'Keefe this weekend to ask him about his methods and The Blaze analysis - as I did last week, initially. But he hasn't replied to my queries.

HANSEN: So what sticks up?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, in the 11-and-a-half-minute version, Ron Schiller appeared to be talking dismissively about Republicans, at a lunch with prospective donors from a fake Muslim group that OKeefe had created. The tape's awfully hard to understand. But the next voice we'll hear is Schillers. It sounds like he's talking about how the GOP has been hijacked by Tea Partiers and by xenophobes.

(Soundbite of an audiotape)

Mr. RON SCHILLER (Former Fundraiser, NPR): As if the Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is...

Mr. SHAUGHN ADELEYE: (as Amir Malik) Radical, racist, Islamophobic Tea - Tea Party people?

Mr. SCHILLER: Exactly, and not just Islamophobic but really cynical...

FOLKENFLIK: So he sounds there to be calling Tea Partiers seriously racist. But that shorter version, that was clipped. And in the longer version, its evident hes quoting a Republican ambassador, and a major Republican donor, who talked to him.

Mr. SCHILLER: I won't break a confidence. But a person who was an ambassador, so a very highly placed Republican; another person who was one of the top donors to the Republican Party. They both told me they voted for Obama, which they never believed they could ever do in their lives, that they could ever vote for a Democrat - ever. And they did because they believed that the current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is...

Mr. SHAUGHN ADELEYE: (as Amir Malik) Radical, racist, Islamophobic Tea - Tea Party people?

Mr. SCHILLER: Exactly, and not just Islamophobic but really cynical...

FOLKENFLIK: Now, it's important to note that Schiller himself doesn't take issue with their characterizations. But as The Blaze says, the edited video makes it seem as though he's speaking for himself.

HANSEN: The Blaze also questioned Ron Schillers lighthearted reaction to Sharia law.

FOLKENFLIK: Right, the disparity's pretty sharp there, too. Heres how OKeefe introduces it, in his narration in the original tape.

(Soundbite of an audiotape)

Mr. JAMES O'KEEFE (Conservative Activist): On the MEAC website, it said the organization sought to, quote: spread the acceptance of Sharia across the world.

Mr. SCHILLER: Really, thats what they said?

(Soundbite of laughter)

FOLKENFLIK: But in the longer version of the tape, that laughter actually appears to have followed their arrival at the table.

(Soundbite of audiotape)

Mr. SIMON TEMPLAR: (as Ibrahim Kassam) ...And initially directed us to the big room, where - I guess -there's a - oh, a party also under the name Ibrahim.

Mr. SCHILLER: Really, thats what they said?

(Soundbite of laughter)

FOLKENFLIK: So it's a lighthearted welcome, but O'Keefe's introduction seriously distorts the mood of all that follows in that edited, 11-and-a-half-minute video.

HANSEN: The Blaze suggested other manipulations in the shorter video, but they raised audio questions as well. Elaborate.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, let me give you one example. Theres a moment where the video and its time stamp appear to progress. But the audio goes into a repetitive loop.

(Soundbite of audiotape)

Ms. BETSY LILEY: So NPR is pushing...

Mr. SHAUGHN ADELEYE: (as Amir Malik) Oh.

Ms. BETSY LILEY: NPR is...

Mr. SHAUGHN ADELEYE: (as Amir Malik): Yes.

Ms. BETSY LILEY: NPR is...

FOLKENFLIK: The analysts at The Blaze say they dont know how to account for that, and its also baffled other video experts Ive spoken to over the weekend.

HANSEN: What's the takeaway from this?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, as I said, James OKeefe really says that he's a muckraking, investigative journalist. But if you look at this, this seems like part of his conservative activism, to bring down institutions. He went after ACORN, and it went away. He tried to humiliate an investigative reporter for CNN by luring her onto a boat that was filled with sex toys.

In this instance, he captured Ron Schiller making remarks. And these remarks that Schiller has apologized for, he's lost his job here on an accelerated basis; he lost the job he was going to go to at the Aspen Institute; and his boss, Vivian Schiller, who happens to be no relation to him - Vivian Schiller also lost her job, in very short order.

The Blaze analysis strongly suggests, though, that the 11-and-a-half-minute video that ricocheted around the media landscape significantly distorted and misrepresented what Ron Schiller had to say.

And its really taken a few days to catch up with that first, misleading posting and with the ousters - and the news of the ousters, that followed.

HANSEN: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik.

David, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.