NPR And The One Party Consent Rule

The undercover tactics of James O’Keefe cost at least two people their jobs at National Public Radio – Ron Schiller, the NPR executive caught by a hidden camera making derisive comments about the Tea Party; and Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO. Vivian is not related to Ron. And the question, I suppose, (besides why does NPR hire so many people named “Schiller”) is whether Ron Schiller has a claim against O’Keefe arising from the sting operation. The answer is, in all likelihood, no. Schiller can’t complain that there is any libel here – it’s his own comments that O’Keefe recorded. And he really has no claim for invasion of privacy. No one can reasonably assume that a stranger will not repeat what we say at a lunch meeting to the world. And the fact that O’Keefe recorded the conversation with a hidden camera doesn’t change things. Washington D.C. permits a party to a conversation to record it, without telling the other party about the recording. It’s called the “single consent” rule. 37 states and the federal government follow that rule. The remaining 13 states require that both parties to a conversation consent to its taping. Here’s a helpful guide if you’re interested. Of course, all of this assumes the tapes are on the up and up. If they were edited in a way that changed the content, things may get a bit more interesting. And O’Keefe apparently has a history in this area.