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NPR gets ‘gotacha’ journalism lesson

  • Written by Jason Johnson
Can someone please explain to me why anyone listens to James O’Keefe or Andrew Breitbart at all?
 Dr. Jason Johnson

Can someone please explain to me why anyone listens to James O’Keefe or Andrew Breitbart at all? Both of these men have in the last two years taken the world of journalism lower than even the slimiest, most poorly-edited blog troll could ever have taken the industry.

Instead, however, of facing scrutiny, banishment or in O’Keefe’s case, jail time, these men continue to bring down real journalists. In the latest salvo against the world of common sense O’Keefe has managed to cost the jobs of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller and, indirectly, NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller. At some point common sense and journalistic integrity must prevail. It’s just not clear when that might occur.

Last week, the blogosphere and the press were set aflame by another “gotcha” hidden video of “liberals gone wild” courtesy of right wing muckraker O’Keefe. O’Keefe has come to national prominence over the years by doing a series of undercover videos of supposedly liberal and progressive organizations either breaking the law or saying and doing things that would embarrass them.

He made audio recordings of Planned Parenthood workers who would accept money from donors who wanted to curtail the black population in America.

He pretended to be a pimp to elicit embarrassing quotes from ACORN employees. He later attempted to embarrass a CNN reporter, Abbie Bordreau, with a story about sex toys.

And he was arrested for breaking into Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in an attempt to bug her phones.

These aren’t the moves of an investigative journalist. They aren’t the actions of an activist either. They are the actions of a media terrorist, who like most terrorists uses fear and threats to accomplish goals they can’t achieve through reason or recruitment. His most recent target? National Public Radio.

O’Keefe had secret video tapes of NPR fundraisers apparently agreeing to accept donations from the Muslim brotherhood and fundraiser Ron Schiller claiming that Midwestern whites are racists fools. The right wing press immediately jumped on the story, calling for NPR to be defunded, claiming that this validates all of the evil and scorn they heap upon the left and, ultimately, the inherent collusion between the left and Muslim terrorists. In the midst of this scandal, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller stepped down from her job, and Ron Schiller (no relation) simply moved on to another he had planned to leave for months prior.

This all would’ve made sense if O’Keefe and his cronies had actually caught someone breaking the law. But they didn’t. From a legal standpoint, a fundraiser can say whatever they want to raise money so long as they don’t directly lie. Do you think presidential candidates give the same speeches in New York that they give in Cincinnati? Of course not, different audiences different pitches.

From a public relations standpoint however, these were huge black eyes to National Public Radio, which, as a government funded news outlet, has an obligation to appear impartial in its reporting and management. Having unceremoniously booted Juan Williams at the stroke of midnight last year, it’s no surprise that NPR might be a bit gun shy about anything else that makes them look like the bastion of New England liberals that many on the right claim they are.

Here’s the problem though: None of it is true.

Just like Andrew Breitbart’s attack on Shirley Sherrod, who he slandered by doctoring a speech that she gave, the NPR attacks are unfounded as well. Ironically, the Blaze, the news site run by Glenn Beck, has revealed that when the raw audio and video of these “NPR” tapes is played Schiller doesn’t appear to be slamming all Republicans and Tea Partiers as racist, nor does he gleefully accept money from a Muslim terror organization.

Of course the damage has been done already. The news cycle moves faster than a channel flip and before any of this new information could be revealed Americans were understandably wrapped up in the Japan disaster. So, all most people will remember is NPR looking like liberal monsters, and no one stands up to say that O’Keefe and his ilk are liars and slanderers.

In the future, before liberals go scurrying into corners to avoid being called out as liberals they should take the time to see who is accusing them. Time and again, doctored video and audio slander the left. But time and time again, when the SAME perpetrators release videos, they’re still hiding under chairs and doing exactly what the terrorist wants. It’s time the left stopped taking video instruction from right wing zealots.

(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture, and the politics of sports. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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