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NPR: O'Keefe 'Inappropriately Edited' Video; Exec's Words Still 'Egregious'

Mar 14, 2011

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An update on our post from Sunday about the questions that have been raised regarding conservative political activist James O'Keefe's editing of his secretly recorded video of then-NPR chief fundraiser Ron Schiller slamming conservatives.

NPR's David Folkenflik has done more reporting on the differences between the 11 1/2 minute video that O'Keefe's Project Veritas produced and the two hours worth of video that O'Keefe says is the largely unedited account of a lunch that Schiller and another NPR fundraising executive had with two men posing as representatives of a Muslim group that wanted to donate $5 million to NPR.

Here's his report for Morning Edition:

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.

Scott Baker, editor in chief of the conservative news site The Blaze, tells David that after watching the two-hour video he came away with the impression that the NPR executives "seem to be fairly balanced people."

NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm told David late yesterday that O'Keefe "inappropriately edited the videos with an intent to discredit" NPR. Still, she added, Schiller made some "egregious statements."

As we said yesterday, those included Schiller calling the Tea Party a "weird evangelical" movement that has helped push the "current Republican Party" to become "fanatically involved in people's personal lives."

As Time magazine's James Poniewozik writes at his Tuned In blog, "the close-up look [at the longer tape] doesn't let the executive, Ron Schiller, off the hook. But it shows O'Keefe edited the short version of his video to fit his anti-NPR agenda. Explaining why both things can be true at once requires, well, a lot of context."

Before the videos were released last Tuesday, Schiller had already announced he was leaving NPR. After their release, he apologized for his statements and said he was resigning immediately. The next day, NPR's board ousted CEO/President Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron) because it felt she could no longer effectively lead the organization due to the distractions of this controversy and last year's dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.

Update at noon ET: There's now a text version of David's report posted here.

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET: As we said yesterday, O'Keefe said Sunday on CNN that his edited tape is "very honest."

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