WASHINGTON (AP) -- NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday in the wake of comments by a fellow executive that angered conservatives and renewed calls to end federal funding for public broadcasting.
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On Tuesday, conservative activist James O'Keefe posted a hidden-camera video in which NPR executive Ron Schiller bashed the tea party movement as "racist" and "xenophobic" and said NPR would be better off without federal funding. Ron Schiller is not related to Vivian Schiller.
NPR has long been a target of conservatives who claim its programming has a left-wing bias. The budget bill passed by the House last month would end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports programs distributed on NPR and PBS.
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Similar efforts to strip funding from public broadcasting in 2005 and in the 1990s were unsuccessful.
Vivian Schiller was criticized for last year's firing of analyst Juan Williams after he said on Fox News that he feels uncomfortable when he sees people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes. She later said she was sorry for the way she handled Williams' dismissal but stood by her decision to fire him.
"The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years," board chairman Dave Edwards said in a statement. "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."
O'Keefe, best known for hidden-camera videos that embarrassed the community-organizing group ACORN, posted the NPR video Tuesday on his website, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.
The video shows two activists posing as members of a Muslim group at a lunch meeting with Ron Schiller and another NPR executive, Betsy Liley. The men offer NPR a $5 million donation and engage Schiller in a wide-ranging discussion about tea party Republicans, pro-Israel bias in the media, anti-intellectualism and other topics.
"The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by this group that is ... not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic," Ron Schiller said in the video, referring to the tea party movement. "They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting -- it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people."
NPR said it was "appalled" by Ron Schiller's comments. Schiller had already told NPR before the video was shot that he was resigning as president of its fundraising arm and a senior vice president for development. He said in a statement Tuesday night that his resignation would be effective immediately.
"While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse, I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended," he said in the statement.
O'Keefe asked supporters to sign a petition urging Congress to review NPR's funding.
"We've just exposed the true hearts and minds of NPR and their executives," O'Keefe said in a letter posted on his website.
CPB is getting $430 million in the current fiscal year, although NPR only gets about 2 percent of its revenue from the federal government. Government funding accounts for about 10 percent of the budgets of its member stations.
"It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding," Ron Schiller said in the video, saying it would allow the organization to become an independent voice and clear up the misconception that it is largely government-funded.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in a statement that NPR's executives have "finally admitted that they do not need taxpayer dollars to survive."
Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced a separate bill Friday to cut off funding for CPB.
Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for the group Tea Party Patriots, urged Congress to act in an e-mail to supporters, calling NPR a "clearly biased news organization that is out of touch with Americans across the country."
O'Keefe did not respond to e-mailed questions about the video and his decision to target NPR.
Liley says little in the video, although she can be heard laughing when one of the men says his group referred to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio." She has been placed on administrative leave, NPR said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The chairman of NPR's board of directors announced that he has accepted Schiller's resignation, effective immediately.