White House: NPR, Public Broadcasting ‘Important Priorities’ for Federal Funding

March 9, 2011 - 5:29 PM

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Washington (CNSNews.com) – National Public Radio and its parent organization are “worthwhile and important priorities” to receive federal dollars, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday after the head of NPR resigned over a politically embarrassing undercover video.

Carney faced suggestions during a regular press briefing that he was offering a tepid endorsement of NPR, the media organization plagued by the video scandal amidst debate in Congress over tax dollars supporting public broadcasting.

“Everyone agrees that we need to cut spending,” he told reporters. “The president put forward a budget that does that in dramatic fashion.”

“That budget also contains within it the president’s priorities, and we’re working with Congress to find common ground, as you know, on the broader budget issues,” Carney said. “But we believe that – or rather, we do not support calls to eliminate funding for National Public Radio or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as is evidenced by our budget.”

Vivian Schiller

President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR) Vivian Schiller resigned on Wednesday. (Photo: NPR)

President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget includes $451 million for public broadcasting – slightly below the $460 million he proposed in fiscal year 2011. House Republicans advocate eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the publicly-funded corporation of which NPR is a part.

NPR CEO and president Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday, one day after a video was posted by conservative activist James O’Keefe showing NPR Foundation senior vice-president Ron Schiller (no relation) saying NPR does not need federal funding and calling Republicans and Tea Party members “xenophobic” and “racist.” Ron Schiller has also resigned.

A reporter suggested that Carney was not giving “full throated” support for NPR and the CPB in his responses.

“We think they are worthwhile and important priorities,” Carney said. “The budget makes clear the president’s priorities, and among them are funding at the level that we stipulate in the budget for National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

“I don’t think people here want to get into the history of public broadcasting and public radio and why successive administrations of both parties have felt that it’s worthwhile, but suffice it to say that we do.”

After a follow-up, Carney added, “The reality is that the administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have supported public broadcasting in the past.”

Ron Schiller

NPR Foundation senior vice-president Ron Schiller resigned after circulation of a video clip showing him disparaging the Tea Party as racist. (Photo: NPR)

“In an era when tough choices have to be made, including the ones that this president laid out in his proposed 2012 budget, that there remains a need to support public broadcasting and NPR.”

In the secretly-recorded video, Ron Schiller is seen having lunch at a cafe in Washington, D.C. with two men posing as representatives of a fictitious group called the Muslim Education Action Center Trust.

At one point, Schiller says, “The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird Evangelical kind of move.”

The clip also shows him saying, “The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group, that is –” and then after an interruption he continues “– and not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic. I mean, basically, they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”