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NPR Taps Sesame Workshop Chief Gary Knell as New CEO

Gary Knell - P 2011
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

He replaces Vivian Schiller, who resigned under pressure in March after a former NPR fundraiser was caught on camera calling the Tea Party racist.

Gary Knell, the longtime president and CEO of Sesame Workshop who helped bring Sesame Street to worldwide audiences for the past 11 years, has been named president and CEO of NPR, the public radio network said Sunday.

Knell, whose appointment is effective Dec. 1, succeeds Vivian Schiller, who resigned under pressure in March after a former NPR fundraiser was caught on camera calling the Tea Party racist. The episode led some conservatives to call for an end to federal funding for NPR, but Congress ultimately retained the funds as part of a budget deal in April.

Schiller was also criticized for firing analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims. She was named chief digital officer at NBC News in June.

VIDEO: NPR Executive Caught on Tape Calling Tea Partiers 'Racist' 

Knell, 57, told the Associated Press on Sunday that he wanted to "depoliticize" NPR by highlighting its commitment to hard-hitting local, national and international journalism across multiple platforms. He said he does not believe that NPR is biased and wants to try to change the minds of those who perceive it as such.

"I think NPR needs to do a better job of telling a story," Knell said. "It's about journalism, it's about news. It's not about promoting one political agenda or another."

NPR's board of directors voted unanimously to hire Knell after a national search that included help from an outside firm.

"Gary is an extraordinary leader with extensive experience in public media, programming and education," board chairman Dave Edwards said in a statement. "As CEO of Sesame Workshop for more than a decade, he has led a large, complex organization through a tumultuous media environment, helping it grow by providing innovative, engaging content in new and creative ways."

VIDEO: Juan Williams: NPR Execs 'Prostitute Themselves for Money'

At Sesame Workshop, Knell created co-productions in South Africa, India, Northern Ireland and Egypt and made the organization's programming available on a variety of digital platforms.

"Despite the fact that it may appear that I'm a guy who's doing puppet shows, that's not really true," Knell said. "It's a complex media organization that's global in size."

He said NPR was one of the few organizations that has a "bigger impact on the world," and that's why he was interested in the job.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.