Kevin Drum thinks that what the NPR fundraiser said was perfectly okay:
Here's what I'd like to hear from more people: there was nothing wrong with Schiller saying this. Period. He's a fundraiser, not a reporter. He's allowed to have personal views. He's allowed to express those views, even if they're obnoxious or intemperate, and even if he's doing it across the table from a potential donor. He did nothing wrong, and neither did his boss. He deserved, at most, a mild talking-to over this.
I can't begin to tell you how tired I am of all the faux fainting couch nonsense we have to put up with these days from both left and right. People say stuff. They despise certain groups and certain people. They get passionate. If you cross a genuine line, that's one thing. But I'm really weary of fairly ordinary political invective being routinely turned into a firing offense. It's time for all of us to grow thicker skins and knock off this nonsense.I'm not sure what "wrong" means in this context. Ron Schiller (the fundraiser, no relationship to Vivian Schiller, who was fired from NPR as a result of his remarks to a James O'Keefe sting team) is of course perfectly entitled to hold these views, though I think they're rather parochial and stupid. But he made them while he was on the job for NPR.
There are lots of opinions which are perfectly legitimate to hold, but which will nonetheless get you fired if you express them. "High-stakes roulette is a regressive tax on people who can't do math" is perfectly true, but you won't catch the head of marketing for Harrah's saying so in public. In fact, had Schiller worked for any private corporation, his head would have undoubtedly rolled--not because his views are morally equivalent to "You know what was awesome? The Third Reich!", but because you can't get caught saying things that alienate large portions of your customer base.
What Ron Schiller said wasn't good for NPR's bottom line. Whether or not it's permissible to believe that a large segment of the country are racist troglodytes, when someone expresses that view during the performance of his official duties, then you can see how said racist troglodytes might not want to give that organization any more of their money--whether that's as customers, donors, or taxpayers. The normal organizational imperative is to fire that person, and this doesn't strike me as outrageous. That's how organizations communicate an important message in situations like this: this person's views are not ours, and we reject them.
The real problem is a quirk of timing: the video came out just as Schiller had left NPR for the Aspen Institute. Thus, NPR couldn't fire him. So they had to look for someone else to fire, and unfortunately, that was Vivian Schiller, the CEO, whose only crime was being in charge of the organization when this happened.
I think the scapegoating is problematic (though given the circumstances, I'm not sure I'd have done differently--many NPR affiliates feel that they're very much in danger of extinction). But I don't think it's a problem that companies fire people for expressing nasty views that can threaten their bottom line. That's just survival--and I think that NPR is too valuable to lose.
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