James O'Keefe Looks Back at NPR Sting

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 7 2011 10:20 AM

James O'Keefe Looks Back at NPR Sting

Three months ago, in the wake of the Project Veritas sting of NPR fundraisers , Congress did something unexpected: It didn't strip NPR or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting of taxpayer funding. More Republicans voted to nix it than had voted that way the last time the money was on the block. But the money survived.

Why did NPR endure while ACORN imploded? When I ran into James O'Keefe at this weekend's Faith & Freedom coalition conference, I asked him.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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"I don't know," said O'Keefe, "but didn't the whole budget pivot on NPR?"

Sure, I said. It was one of the chits used in bargaining for the continuing resolution -- Democrats gave up some other funding to save NPR. But NPR survived. Why?

"They had a letter signed by NPR reporters distancing themselves," O'Keefe said. "They had CPB affiliates distancing themselves. But let's say I'd done a sting on a dozen offices of local affiliates. It was very clear in the ACORN investigation that the problem was systemic. The NPR sting maybe gave them the opportunity to say, 'Well, that's just our fundraiser, that's just our CEO, that's not us.' Maybe that's the reason."

I pointed out that one reason Democrats gave for dismissing the sting video was that it was, well, a James O'Keefe production. They simply argued that his content wasn't trustworthy. (My own problem with the short version of the video was that one of Ron Schiller's most incendiary comments, that the Tea Party was composed of "racist, racist people," cut out the part where Schiller said he was quoting two Republican friends.)

"Even NPR's ombudsman came out at some point and said that these people had said what they said," said O'Keefe. "Ron Schiller admitted that he said what he said and he resigned 24 hours after we released the full, unedited tape. Vivian Schiller resigned more than 24 hours after we released the full, unedited tape. They can say it's doctored -- but we released the full, unedited tape."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.