Nothing Exciting Happens in James O'Keefe's NPR 'Sting' Sequel

Spoiler alert: it's pretty boring

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James O'Keefe's sting videos have a history of getting results. So, naturally, when his group tweeted in all-caps that he's released part II of the NPR assault, we took notice and watched. Here's what happens: NPR's senior director of institutional giving, Betsy Liley, is on the phone with "Ibrahim Kasaam," an alibi used by "undercover investigator" Simon Templar of O'Keefe's group. They talk for 44 minutes.

Templar discusses the particulars of how his (fake) group, the Muslim Action Education Center, can donate $5 million to NPR anonymously. As O'Keefe gleefully points out, the takeaway line from the video is that Liley told Templar that she would help "shield" a potential donation from government auditing."We would certainly, if that is in your interest, want to shield you from that," she says, and repeated the sentiment several times (27:43 in video below).

But selling the video in this way seems to be misleading. Liley also mentions in the video several times that this is "standard" procedure. And, as The Atlantic's Chris Good has noted, "if a group isn't required to publicly share the names of its donors, it typically won't, even though it will supply those names to the IRS on tax forms. This is seen with 501(c)4 political groups, on both the left and right."

Near the end of the video (36:00), Templar and Liley spend time talking about when NPR or other non-profits would not want to accept donations and Liley mentions how NPR decided not to accept a donation from Michael Milken during his insider trading scandal. The exchange prompted Templar to say "are you suggesting that NPR is considering not accepting" a contribution from his fake group. Liley responds empathetically, "No."

Here's the instant reviews of his latest stunt:

  • Nothing That's Discussed Here Is Illegal writes Slate's David Weigel. "Basically, Templar is using fishy-sounding language to describe something that's not ideal, but legal. The problem comes in if you think NPR shouldn't accept donations from a group that admits it was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose representatives worry about Jewish control of the media."
  • 'PR Cover-Up Is Worse Than The Crime (But The Crime Is Pretty Bad, Too),' tweets conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart.
  • A Few Misleading Items writes NPR's Mark Memmott. "The facts that anonymous giving is common and legal, but that NPR reports all donations to the IRS and that NPR did not accept the fictitious Muslim charity's offer are not detailed in either:— The blog where O'Keefe has posted the recording of that conversation.— Or the report about it at The Daily Caller, which this week has been the outlet where O'Keefe's revelations have been broken."

Update: (via Politico) NPR was quick to condemn the remarks made by Liley as "factually inaccurate." Their statement:

“The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audio tapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR’s gift practices. All donations – anonymous and named – are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations.”

So there you have it. Watch the whole thing if you want more.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.