NPR exec won’t take Aspen Institute post
Ryan Summerlin March 9, 2011
ASPEN, Colorado – Ron Schiller, the Aspen resident and National Public Radio fundraising executive who was caught on a surreptitious video bashing the Tea Party movement and suggesting public radio would be better off without federal dollars, on Wednesday resigned from what was to be his new post with the Aspen Institute.
Schiller had already resigned as president of the NPR Foundation and senior vice president of development, effective May 6, in order to take the Aspen Institute post. He made his NPR resignation effective Tuesday when controversy erupted over comments he made in made in the undercover video. Conservatives called the video proof that the network is biased and undeserving of federal funds.
On Wednesday, NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller (the two are unrelated), also resigned over the flap, and Ron Schiller announced he would forego his position at the Aspen Institute.
“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,” said a brief announcement from James Spiegelman, vice president of communications and public affairs at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.
The Aspen office of the think tank was referring inquiries about Schiller to Spiegelman, who did not return calls from The Aspen Times.
“He was graceful to step aside,” Spiegelman told The Associated Press. “It was his decision.”
Schiller had been named the new director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program and Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence Program, beginning April 1. He was to be based out of the institute’s Aspen offices.
Schiller has been a part-time and then full-time resident of Aspen since 2006, when his partner, Alan Fletcher, was named president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Locally, an executive at one public radio station in Schiller’s backyard – KDNK Community Radio in Carbondale – was wondering how backlash to Schiller’s comments might impact the station’s budget.
NPR was already in the midst of a fight on Capitol Hill, where some Republicans want to strip it of all federal support. Congress does not appropriate money specifically for the organization, but rather sends money to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Schiller’s statement on federal funds is at odds with NPR’s official position on the matter.
In the video, Schiller notes that federal dollars account for 10 percent of the funding for NPR member stations, but at KDNK, that money makes up a third of the budget, said station manager Steve Skinner.
“NPR may feel like they’re better off without that funding, but to a small, rural station, it’s very important,” he said, suggesting Schiller is out-of-touch with the needs of the local community.