The conservative filmmaker who took down an NPR executive this week with his hidden camera has released another installment. This one, however, doesn’t have a “gotcha” moment. Quite the opposite, actually. A previous video showed NPR’s now-former fundraiser criticizing tea party members and suggesting the public radio network could do without government funds.
This video, however, may actually confirm NPR’s editorial firewall.
In today’s release, Betsy Liley, NPR’s senior director of institutional giving, explains to a representative of the group, that it’s possible to make a donation and have it credited on air “anonymously,” but that the organization does that fairly often.
It’s not clear whether the phone conversation took place before or after the luncheon.
Liley, however, makes pretty clear that a donation from the Muslim group doesn’t buy any direction of news coverage. “That’s a news decision,” she says. “A lot of people have an interest in specific areas, including institutions, so they give us support in that area, but we can only accept it to the point that it matches our news judgment.”
She goes on to relay that NPR might accept money from institutions with an interest in a topic, but those institutions are not allowed to decide any aspect of news coverage. “This would not go to anyone in the news division. No one in news would have access to this document,” she said. “There is a firewall between news and development, and there’s a similar firewall between development and news.
She also explains that when liberal financier George Soros donated millions to NPR, “we didn’t tell anyone in news because… because we’re news, we can’t tell the rest of our organization what we’re doing.”
That, if you’re keeping score, is one for ethics and editorial firewalls.
Liley also asks for the group’s IRS 990 form, which would reveal the management, and funding of the organization, making clear that the network clearly intended to check out the organization before accepting any donation. NPR did not accept the phony group’s offer.
The caller tried to figure out ways to “avoid paperwork,” seeming to suggest the donation should be hidden, but Liley appeared to rebuff the notion, citing the requirements from NPR’s legal counsel, Joyce Slocum, who has since taken on the role of CEO interim president after NPR boss Vivian Schiller was fired. Liley indicated that any donation would not be subject to a government audit, although it’s not clear whether NPR is required to submit donor lists to the government for inspection.
Meanwhile, hosts and reporters at NPR today released an open letter to the public regarding the earlier videotaped comments of the deposed Ron Schiller, NPR’s VP of fundraising:
Dear Listeners and Supporters,
We, and our colleagues at NPR News, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR’s now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect.
Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we’re confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you’ve come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world.
With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever.
NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard will be Gary Eichten’s guest on MPR’s Midday on Friday at 11 a.m. (CT).
Update 5:11 p.m. – NPR has issued this statement:
“The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audiotapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR’s gift practices.
“All donations — anonymous and named — are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations.
“Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter.
“No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day.”