Last week, a Project Veritas "sting" operation directed at National Public Radio cost some NPR executives their jobs. Beginning with Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ron Schiller, who was depicted on tape disparaging the Tea Party movement and suggesting that NPR should move away from federal funding (a position with arguable merit, but probably very unpopular at NPR), the fallout eventually cost NPR CEO Vivian Schiller her job as well.
That's sort of the NPR way: when one of the humans under their employ gets in trouble for expressing their opinions, everyone starts panicking and people start getting fired. Further analysis of the original video, however, demonstrates the wisdom of the old maxim, "act in haste, repent in leisure."
Glenn Beck-branded website The Blaze may seem an unlikely defender of NPR, but when the site's editor, Scott Baker, and video production specialist, Pam Key, examined the raw footage, they found "questionable editing and tactics" and reported them all out. The observations they make in their analysis include the following:
-- The video "does not explain how the NPR executives would have a basis to believe they were meeting with a Muslim Brotherhood front group," and indeed "includes a longer section of description that seems to downplay connections of the MEAC group to the Muslim Brotherhood as popularly perceived."
-- The video is edited to make it appear that Ron Schiller "is aware and perhaps amused or approving of the MEAC['s]" advocacy for Sharia law, but Schiller's "Really? That's what they said?" remark is actually made in reference to "confusion" involving the "restaurant reservation."
-- Schiller is actually complimentary of Republicans, and prefaces his criticism of the Tea Party by indicating that it's his own opinion, not NPR's. (Plenty of conservatives and Tea Party activists have averred that NPR has treated them fairly.) Baker also finds footage in which Schiller and director of institutional giving Betsy Liley express a hesitancy to disparage the "education of conservatives" and defend "intellects of Fox News viewers."
NPR's Dave Folkenflik and Mark Memmott add their own reporting to this:
Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute, says to David that he tells his children there are "two ways to lie. One is to tell me something that didn't happen. And the other is not to tell me something that did happen." After comparing O'Keefe's edited tape to the longer version, "I think that they employed both techniques in this," Tompkins says.
One "big warning flag" Tompkins saw in the shorter tape was the way it made it appear that Schiller had laughed and commented "really, that's what they said?" after being told that the fake Muslim group advocates for sharia law. In fact, the longer tape shows that Schiller made that comment during an "innocuous exchange" that had nothing to do with the supposed group's position on sharia law, David reports.
Tompkins also says that O'Keefe's edited tape ignores the fact that Schiller said "six times ... over and over and over again" that donors cannot buy the kind of coverage they want on NPR.
Per Memmott, Project Veritas' James O'Keefe continues to maintain that their video is "very honest." It's easy to see why: the effects of his "sting" operation manifested themselves in several public firings, so he can couch his claims -- however dubious they may be -- in the fact that NPR's response was a de facto acceptance of the video's premise.
Which is why organizations like NPR shouldn't freak right the hell out and start firing people until all the facts are known. Had NPR just waited, they'd have Ron Schiller and his perfectly protean opinions on the Tea Party headed to the Aspen Institute, and Vivian Schiller citing the Project Veritas video's content and NPR's own coverage as a demonstration of NPR's editorial integrity. But they decided to go in a different direction.