Chief resigns a day after tape showing another executive calling Tea Partiers “racist” is leaked
NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller has been ousted by NPR's board of directors a day after another NPR executive was caught in a hidden camera video slamming Republicans and the Tea Party — and less than six months after her mishandling of the firing of Juan Williams.
NPR chairman Dave Edwards released a statement on Wednesday, saying it accepted Schiller's resignation. Joyce Slocum, NPR's SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, has been named interim CEO while the board searches for Schiller's replacement.
The video — featuring Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian), NPR's senior vice president for fundraising — was published online by James O'Keefe, the activist behind those ACORN videos and others targeting progressives.
On it, Ron Schiller tells a fake Muslim group of prospective NPR supporters that the Tea Party "believe in white, middle America, gun-toting — it's pretty scary."
NPR denounced his comments, and Schiller resigned from his post. (He apparently told NPR last week that he planned to leave in May for a job at the Aspen Institute.)
On the tape, he also applauded NPR's firing of political analyst Juan Williams over Williams' controversial comments to Bill O'Reilly about Muslims.
It was Vivian Schiller's handling of that firing that drew intense criticism from conservatives, who then called on Congress to cut off NPR's funds.
She eventually apologized for "not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship" with Williams.
"While we stand firmly behind that decision," she wrote in a letter to affiliates last fall, "I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode."
But NPR's board was weary of her leadership. Tuesday's video — sure to reignite calls from conservatives to defund the organization — was too much for it to bear.
"I'm hopeful that my departure from NPR will have the intended effect of easing the defunding pressure on public broadcasting," Vivian Schiller said in a statement to the New York Times. (Schiller, who joined NPR in 1999, was formerly the senior vice president and general manager of the Times' website.)
"I recognize the magnitude of this news," Edwards wrote, "and that it comes on top of what has been a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community."
Here's his full statement:
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 Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.
Vivian brought vision and energy to this organization. She led NPR 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.
According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, has been appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will immediately establish an Executive Transition Committee that will develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership.
I recognize 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.