(WASHINGTON) -- The embattled CEO of National Public Radio resigned Wednesday after the top fundraiser for NPR said offensive things about Republicans and the Tea Party during an undercover sting orchestrated by conservative "citizen-journalist" James O'Keefe.
Vivian Schiller, the ousted CEO, had also been criticized for NPR's firing of commentator Juan Williams last October. But the controversial comments of Ron Schiller, NPR's top fundraiser, came during what he thought was a lunch with potential donors from a Muslim-affiliated trust.
"The Board accepted Vivian's resignation with understanding, genuine regret and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years," said NPR Board Chairman Dave Edwards in a written statement. NPR broke into its Morning Edition program so that its media correspondent David Folkenflik could report the news.
The sting was a secretly recorded lunch at a Georgetown restaurant. In edited video released by O'Keefe on his Project Veritas website, Schiller is seen calling the Tea Party the "xenophobic," "seriously racist people," who are "fanatically involved in people's personal lives." He also claimed liberals are more educated than their conservative counterparts -- and potentially most damaging -- that NPR would be "better off" without federal funding.
The controversy comes at a delicate time for public broadcasting, including PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which got a nearly $450 million in federal funding last year. President Obama proposed raising that amount to $451 million. But with the federal government facing severe budget deficits, Tea Party groups and some Republicans on Capitol Hill seized upon Mr. Schiller's comments as an opportunity to advocate for cutting all federal funding to NPR.
NPR's Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs, Joyce Slocum, will take over as interim CEO.
Ron Schiller, who was already scheduled to leave NPR in May, instead left Tuesday. He apologized for the comments he made blasting Republicans and the Tea Party.
"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," he said in a statement Tuesday. "I offer my sincere apology to those I offended."
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