Comments cost ex-NPR official new Aspen job

Controversial comments that caused an Aspen resident to leave his National Public Radio position early also have cost him his new job.

Ronald Schiller will not be heading the Aspen Institute Arts Program, institute spokesman James Spiegelman said Wednesday in a statement.

“Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it’s in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here,” Spiegelman said.

Asked if the institute decided it didn’t want Schiller working there, Spiegelman said, “It was Ron’s decision to graciously step aside.”

Schiller was to start his job in Aspen on April 1. He has been a full-time resident there since 2006.

Schiller was senior vice president of fundraising at NPR. On Tuesday, news broke that on a secretly filmed videotape he described Tea Party activists as racist, and he said NPR would be better off without federal funding, a position contrary to NPR’s. After the controversy erupted, NPR reported Schiller had moved up his previously announced resignation from that organization to make it effective immediately.

The incident also led to the firing of NPR president and chief executive officer Vivian Schiller, who is not related to Ron Schiller. NPR’s board decided she no longer could provide effective leadership. Vivian Schiller also had been criticized after last fall’s dismissal by NPR of political analyst Juan Williams over controversial statements he had made.

The Ron Schiller video comes from Project Veritas and was made when Schiller met with two men pretending to be prospective donors from a Muslim education group.

Andrew Todd, executive director of Aspen Public Radio and president of Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a consortium of 17 public stations, worries about the impact of Schiller’s comments when there’s already the threat of Congress cutting Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds.

“We’re fighting very hard for that funding to remain, and the comments made in the video make it that much more difficult to make our case,” he said.

He said the 17 stations probably receive about $1 million in CPB funding, or on average about one-tenth of their total revenue, but it makes up a higher percentage for some of the stations that are more rural.

Steve Skinner, general manager of KDNK public radio in Carbondale, said public funds this year account for about $138,000 of the station’s $565,000 budget.

“To have it swept away quickly would be arduous for us to say the least,” he said.


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