Colorado congressman takes aim at Big Bird in wake of NPR scandal sparked by Aspen resident

By David O. Williams
Real VailMarch 10, 2011
Republican Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn Wednesday was already dancing on Big Bird's grave in the wake of a National Public Radio scandal he hopes will gives wings to his bid to yank federal funding from public broadcasting.

“This latest development in what appears to be an internal meltdown at National Public Radio only strengthens my resolve to eliminate all federal funding for NPR and its parent organization, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Lamborn said in a prepared statement Wednesday, reacting to the resignation of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller.
Schiller called it quits after a video produced by conservative activist James O'Keefe went viral on Tuesday. A setup staged by two men purporting to be from a Muslim group looking to donate $5 million to NPR, the O'Keefe video showed chief NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian) slamming the Tea Party movement, agreeing that Jews influence the nation's newspapers and admitting NPR would probably be better off without federal funding.

NPR Tuesday called the comments appalling, and Vivian Schiller – already feeling the FOX News heat from the firing last fall of commentator Juan Williams for admitting he's afraid of Muslims – stepped down early Wednesday. Ron Schiller, an Aspen resident since 2006, backed out of a job he had already accepted with the Aspen Institute prior to the scandal, according to the website Real Aspen.

“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,” Aspen Institute spokesman Jim Spiegelman said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

Lamborn last month introduced legislation that would de-fund NPR and PBS. He unsuccessfully carried a similar bill last year.

“I have been seeking to push Big Bird out of the nest for over a year, based on the simple fact that we can no longer afford to spend taxpayer dollars on non-essential government programs,” Lamborn said. “It's time for Big Bird to earn his wings and learn to fly on his own.”

But pulling all funding would likely be a shotgun blast to the large, flightless Sesame Street character, since even Ron Schiller admitted on the video that “we'd have a lot of stations go dark.”

“NPR does not need taxpayer dollars,” Lamborn said Tuesday. “If they, themselves, admit that they'd be better off without federal funding, there's no need for further debate. Remove NPR from the federal budget and be done with it.”

That's not going to happen, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We do not support calls to eliminate funding for National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as is evidenced by our budget. In an era where tough choices have to be made, including the ones this president laid out in his proposed 2012 budget, there remains a need to support public broadcasting and NPR.”

Federal funding for public broadcasting remains in the White House budget proposal to the tune of $450 million.


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