Analysts: Gotcha video that ensnared former NPR exec Ron Schiller contains dubious editing

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenMarch 14, 2011
A news site backed by Glenn Beck, of all people, has shed new light on the hidden-camera video that depicted Aspen resident Ronald Schiller making several controversial statements.
Ron Schiller

The Blaze reports that it carefully cross-checked right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe's initial 11 1/2-minute portrayal of his NPR video sting with the longer version that runs more than two hours. What the site's editor in chief Scott Baker discovered is the shorter version contained misleading and deceptive editing designed to portray Schiller in a negative way.

"Schiller’s negative comments about Republicans and conservatives have gotten a great deal of attention," Baker wrote in his recent dissection of the videos. "He clearly says some offensive things, while being very direct that he is giving his own opinion and not that of NPR. Still — a wildly stupid move! But you may be surprised to learn, that in the raw video, Schiller also speaks positively about the GOP. He expresses pride in his own Republican heritage and his belief in fiscal conservatism."

Within hours of the video's release, the National Public Radio declared Schiller's statements "appalling" and Schiller, the chief fundraiser for NPR, apologized for some of his covertly captured comments. He immediately resigned the next day and, citing the controversy, ceded a role he was to take at the Aspen Institute in April as its arts director.

The Blaze also reports that the longer version of the video shows that O'Keefe's bogus Muslim representatives, lunching with Schiller and another NPR exec, try to goad them into badmouthing the intelligence of conservatives, but the NPR execs fend them off.

"You may also have seen a section of the video where Schiller describes liberals as more educated than conservatives. But the raw video shows a section where Schiller is hesitant to criticize the education of conservatives and the other executive, Betsy Liley, is outspoken in her defense of the intellects of Fox News viewers," Baker writes. "Would it have been fair to include the broader range of the executives statements? The impression of the original video, that the execs were only hostile toward Republicans and conservatives, is incorrect."

The Blaze, points out that there are also two sections of the video Baker found dubious: one, where the audio is strangely looped and another minute and 24 seconds that O'Keefe said he redacted for the “safety of a reporter illegally in foreign country.”

The video further omits Schiller repeatedly saying that donors cannot influence the news because of a firewall between NPR's fundraising and editorial departments.

NPR reports that its Senior Vice President Dana Davis Rehm this week wrote in an e-mail that the videos unfairly present several innocent comments by Schiller and Liley as inappropriate.

"No one should be surprised based on O'Keefe's record that the video was heavily edited with the intention of discrediting NPR," Rehm said in an NPR story, which also reported a digital forensics consultant it asked to review the videos found that many of Schiller's remarks are presented out of sequence from the questions asked.

But Rehm did not dismiss the video altogether.
James O'Keefe

She noted that NPR confirmed "egregious comments were made that were not distorted, doctored or fundamentally misrepresented."

A journalism ethics expert at the Poynter Institute said he was at first uncomfortable with the remarks he heard Schiller make in the the shorter video but after reviewing the extended version, he is now more uncomfortable with O'Keefe's editing.

"I tell my children there are two ways to lie," Tompkins reportedly said. "One is to tell me something that didn't happen, and the other is not to tell me something that did happen. I think they employed both techniques in this."

This isn't the first time O'Keefe's video tactics have been panned. He undermined Planned Parenthood and ACORN a few years ago with similar secret recordings that his critics say were designed to deceive.

O'Keefe has said he stands by his work.

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