I’ll admit it, I was dumbfounded that NPRs Ron Schiller had allowed himself to be caught on a video saying stuff that seemed far afield from a fund-raising visit. It turns out that this was a set-up. The potential funders were not old-time donors with whom Schiller was playing with loose lips. It was a possible new source, Muslim based, and therefore whatever vetting of guests regular donors might have done, was not done — because the purpose in fact was to get a camera in on the meeting — no money ever intended to exchange hands. Schiller and his staff still should have done a better job of asking: who are these guys? Are they legitimate? Who else have the funded? Is it worth a couple of hours to return a “cold call?”
Besides that however, as I should have expected immediately, and didn’t — given the figure behind the taping, the infamous Jame O’Keefe (ACORN, Planned Parenthood, Senator Landrieu phone hacking)– serious editing had been done on the clips released to the news. Now that the raw footage has been seen, a different account of the conversation is emerging.
The first serious questions about them were raised on (I swear!) The Blaze, a Glenn Beck-affiliated website. Over there, Scott Baker pointed to a few problems (3/10/11). In one part of the video, NPR‘s Schiller seems to laugh about the phony Muslim group’s position on Sharia law. Walker says it’s out of context:
So after saying that the MEAC website advocates the “acceptance of Sharia,” the video cuts to theNPR exec saying, “Really? That’s what they said?” The cadence is jovial and upbeat and the narration moves on. The implication is that the NPR exec is aware and perhaps amused or approving of the MEAC mission statement. But when you look at the raw video, you realize he was actually recounting an unrelated and innocuous issue about confusion over names in the restaurant reservation.
But more important than that is the part of the video regarding Schiller’s comments about the Tea Party–the words that generated much of the current controversy. According to Miller, elsewhere in the video Schiller talks fondly of his own Republican roots. As for the racist, xenophobic Tea Party stuff:
the clip in the edited video implies Schiller is giving simply his own analysis of the Tea Party. He does do that in part, but the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.
NPR has done at least two reports on the video (one here, the other here). It’s not quite a Shirley Sherrod moment–where the right-wing video was edited to totally turn her message around–but it’s clear that things aren’t exactly what they first seemed. O’Keefe’s history should give media outlets serious reservations about taking him at face value on anything.
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