October 25th, 2010
09:29 AM ET

NPR CEO sorry for how she handled Juan Williams firing

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller sent an e-mail to employees apologizing for the way she handled the firing of Juan Williams after his comments on Fox News' Bill O'Reilly show about Muslims, but also insisted she believes the company still made the right call.

Fox News has assailed NPR for its handling of the situation, calling it an assault on free speech and stoking GOP pundits and potential presidential candidates to demand that NPR's government funding be cut.

NPR posted the e-mail on their news blog, "The Two-Way." It reads:

"Dear Colleagues,

"I want to apologize to you for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to better prepare our messaging and to provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. As I’m telling our Member stations in a separate memo today, I also regret that this happened when the staff and volunteers of many stations were deeply engaged in pledge drives.


"This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan's comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR's standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act.  I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about timing: whether NPR should have ended our relationship with Juan earlier, on the occasion of other incidents; or whether this final episode warranted immediate termination of his contract.

"In any event, the process that followed the decision was unfortunate — including not meeting with Juan in person — and I take full responsibility for that. We have already begun a thorough review of all aspects of our performance in this instance, a process that will continue in the coming days and weeks.

"The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards. We will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for staff, Member stations and the public, and we will look for productive ways to include many of you in that endeavor.

"It was clear from Friday's all staff meeting that you have deep feelings about NPR’s culture, our commitment to diversity and how we communicate. I have deep feelings about those things too. We are working to tackle them, though clearly this latest incident has given them fresh urgency.

"In the meantime, I want to express confidence in NPR's  — in your! — integrity and dedication to the highest values in journalism, and our shared commitment to serving as a national forum for the respectful discussion of diverse ideas. They are why we will continue to earn the support of a growing audience.

"I stand by my decision to end NPR's relationship with Juan, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it. You have my pledge that your executive team and I will reflect on all aspects of our actions, and strive to improve in the future.

"Respectfully,

"Vivian"

soundoff (891 Responses)
  1. Vince

    Obviously none of you listen to NPR... National PUBLIC Radio is probably the best news outlet out there, and has the best programs on politics, society, arts, and economics. Some of us do not like listening to MSNBC and FOX all day, drinking beers and beating our wives while we're at it. Culture means something, and NPR is culture - not the kind that offends people with comments about Muslims, but comments that enlighten and make you think. Please take your drunken rants back to your trailer parks. My household pays more than 150K in taxes and I back NPR with ALL of it...

    October 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jack Adams

    So if I say that I get nervous everytime in the evening when I walk to my car (alone) and I spot a Black person hanging around, I am exhibiting free speech and will not be branded a racist. If this is acceptable Juan's generalization of muslims is fine too.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. paul

    Now lady, you need to fire yourself for incompetency in your job. An organization that constantly BEGS the public for funding is in no position, in this bad economic climate, to anger its listeners. Worse is to give the impression that it is trampling on Free Speech. I've read and seen Juan's comments. I see no great breach of anything there other than standard Liberal Political Correctness crapola. NPR may be forgiven and funding not cut if you and those responsible for the firing quit and begs the forgiveness of the Government and its listeners and simply quit. Juan needs to be offered his old job back. How stupid can you all be? I've deleted NPR from my morning drive routine. See if you'll ever get any $ from me...

    October 25, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. PAUL ARMSTRONG

    WHY SHOULD TAXPAYERS BE SADDLED WITH SUPPORTING SUCH AN OBVIOUS LEFT WING AGENDA INSTEAD OF GETTING "FAIR AND BALANCED" NEWS?

    October 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. DB

    People who lose it in one off here or one off there over time, are not NPR listeners. There are Limbaugh transplants.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. One Taxpayer

    Be realiistic, could we have ignored the same comments for a Christian Nun or a jewish Rabbi.

    Bigot don't have a place in our country.
    Juan is a bigot. He got what is deserved! Mutual respect is a fundamental part to any civilized society!

    October 25, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Manna

    Women hate it when men tell the truth. Feminism = the death of free speech. Manhood101 . com

    October 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CuteKate

      You have a small manhood, now don't you?

      October 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. paul

    News channels cover completely different stories, and the editors who decide which stories get pushed to the front are the most powerful people in america. Its crazy how powerful CNN has become and what it considers news sets the national agenda and sway the masses. Its not like previous generations where your choice was which news anchor you preferred delivering the news. Now, the actual news is completely different depending on the channel you are watching. Its insane and the bias is so obvious that it makes us people stuck in the middle sick.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CuteKate

      That's what happens when your news is controlled by corporations.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RandyZ

    I predict that Vivian will soon announce her "retirement" so that she may spend more time at home with her family!
    Will we ever find out how many tens of millions of dollars she has cost her organization?

    October 25, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Caral from SoCal

    If Juan Williams' comments were "opinion" and therefore not allowed under his contract, I would like to get a look at the contracts of Nina Totenberg, Cokie Roberts, the late Daniel Shore, and other NPR "analysts" or "commentators" who I have heard on CNN. I have heard Cokie Roberts issue opinions that have taken my breath away for their boldness. I guess NPR is just careful about WHAT opinions its reporters give.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mark

    On first impressions I felt NPR was very wrong. After more consideration I realize however the point is that NPR is asking for their news commentators to leave their personal bias OUT of their reporting and interviews. This is an important distinction. Part of what makes getting the news hard is so many so called news people give their opinions... as in 'muslims make me nervous' or whatever he said. Now I'm not sure I 100% agree on the firing but think of the flip side.... Do you tell businesses who they can employ and who they can't??? People are fired for a variety of reasons all the time and that can get down to as small as at a marketing meeting someone didin't step up and pitch a new idea.

    For the same reason I support Williams right to say what he wishes in public and express his own opinion, I also support the right of companies who disagree with those opinions or do not want a particular personality as part of their company to hire and fire who they please. It seems some Americans forget that free sppech and free market works both ways. I will hire who I want. That is MY right as an American.

    So fact is... Americans can say what they please, but companies can hire and fire who they please as well. What you say each and every day on the job effects your employment status even if you don't want to believe it is so.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Ultimately the key difference between NPR and Fox is simple. Fox News is a private business that is unabashedly conservative. NPR is a quasi-public, not-for-profit company that receives government funds and is supposed to be unbiased. Firing an analyst, who is by definition supposed to analyze the news, for expressing views not consistent with the editorial staff is a sign of bias.
      Since NPR wants to act like a for-profit company (ala Fox News) and be biased toward one view, they have that option but they can’t do that and continue to receive federal funding. Congress should eliminate their funding immediately. I suspect that they wouldn’t last long.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      John, he wasn't fired for expressing views that disagree with the powers that be at NPR (how do you know what their opinion is on Muslims?) He was fired for going on another news show and expressing offensive opinions about a group of people that are frequently reported about in their news stories after they had repeatedly warned him to keep his personal opinions personal because it was inconsistent with his ability to be viewed as a fair, unbiased reporter. If he'd said those words at a staff meeting or a party, he probably wouldn't have been fired. It was his national airing of views like that that cost him his job because no one from here on out could view him as a rational, unbiased reporter.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bertina

      The hiring and firing as they please is the very basis for many bagger claims against discrimination laws. They need to figure out what they support and what they don't.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven

      Mark, I'm not going to comment on whether she was or was not right in firing Juan Williams, but I do have to point out that Cokie Robert and Nina Tottenberg are ALSO analysts for NPR and BOTH of them routinely interject their own opinions on other non-npr shows (Inside Washington for example) and you most certainly do not hear either of them being called to the carpet for their actions do you? You certainly don't even see a hint that either of them might be fired for it do you?
      So what does that tell you about this firing?
      Seriously, don't let the spin-meisters at NPR try and fool you about the reality of this shameful action by NPR. Llook at their actions first and then look at their words, you'll find that they don't match up.
      Personally I think you had it right with your first impression. Apply Occam's razor and you usually cut right to the heart of the matter.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • mattmchugh

      Sorry, but I can't agree with this. Williams was not "on the job" and his employer - government-funded or not - overstepped its bounds in choosing to censure his personal opinion, no matter how publicly given. While freedom of speech is not synonymous with freedom from consequence, there needs to be a high degree of tolerance given to unpopular speech - even that which seems intolerant - for the principle to have any meaning. The whole political correctness train has come full circle, from ideal to joke to a joke of an ideal. Opinions that are never expressed can never be addressed. The national debate must not be constrained by the prejudices of the Right or Left (and, make no mistake, the Left pooched it on this one). If Muslims make you nervous, say so. Only then can we have a discussion to uncover where the truth or folly of such an opinion lies.

      – mm

      October 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anne

      And you don't have to be "on the job" for your words and behavior to affect your job. Heard the stories about teachers fired for negative things they say about their students on their "private" facebook pages? Do you think that behavior shouldn't be punished by the employer? Of course it should. If you behavior – on or off the job – in a way that makes your employer believe that you are no longer effective in your job, then you can and should be fired.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KAPA

      Vivian needs to be terminated and all Federal funding stopped.

      Let NPR survive on their own.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Firing him was the right move (for him), obviously being on staff at NPR means not having an opinion of your own but one that is approved by NPR leadership.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kent

      What you are witnessing within the variety of replys to the issue and the event are both freedoms (speech and market). NPR should be a defender of both and not a protagonist of one side or another. Herein NPR fails in their obligations. The entire NPR organization should be angry and ashamed of how this matter was mis-handled. Further, to assume that any news organization hires someones "thoughts and feelings" is perposterous...neither the free press nor the free market work within that type of constrained structure.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ImJustSayin

      Exactly – Juan is an at will employee as most of us are and can fired for any reason. Personally I could care less what he says, but NPR is making an attempt to remain opinion free. Beside, had a arab American said the same thing about not feeling comfortable sitting next to a black person on the subway, Juan might take issue

      October 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred

      I think a lot of people are missing the point of this incident. The issue is not that NPR may or may not have agreed with Williams' statement. NPR fired him, not because of the content of his statement, but because he made a statement at all.

      Assuming that this NPR press release is sincere, any analyst that gives a personal opinion in the public sphere would be similarly fired (or given warnings). No matter if the content is conservative or liberal or anything in between, NPR has a company policy against the voicing of personal opinions. Now, whether or not NPR is truly abiding by their policy or simply looking for an excuse to fire Williams in this case is another issue.

      Another, separate issue, is the fairness of NPR's policy, as it applies to all analysts. Keep in mind that freedom of speech is a right we have as regards the US government, not against private citizens or employers.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terri L

      I wonder how many people commenting on this issue ever listen to NPR? I hear differing views on NPR all the time from commentators, some I agree with and some I don't...from both sides of the isle. I listen to NPR because they take great pains to bring someone in for opposing views when they cover an issue too. (Without the belittlement I hear on many right wing shows.) To those who think it is a liberal bias station I really have to disagree though I do have to acknowledge what many have written about other journalists giving their opinions on other shows and still having jobs. For this reason I think I need to do a lot more research on this before I come to a real decision on my own opinion.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • slu

      Wow Bertina, after reading several of you posts, I feel sorry for you. Your mindless parroting of liberal groupthink, combined with severe ignorance, obviously makes you a frequent target of ridicule in your daily life.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sri

      This is my take on the issue.. If Mr.Juan Williams talks in a friend's group about this issue, he may be fine. But being a media person, there must be some limitation on what he can say and he cannot on a live television/radio. This is more like using the "N" word in public. When that is not accepted how can this be tolerated ? When we are trying to insult a group of people based on religion,color, gender or physical appearance, we have to be very careful on how it affects them. This is United States where everyone is respected. When a obese person sits next to you in a flight, do you just say "man its awful. I don't have space". That is not right... Mr.Juan Williams must pay for his words because being a media veteran for so long, he must understand that his views are accepted across wide range of audience and must watch what he says(on television or radio).

      October 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • rafael

      Matt, you don't understand his contract. He was "on the job" as far as his contract was concerned. If you violate the terms of your contract (repeatedly) you get fired sooner or later.

      October 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cc

    I like NPR and will continue to listen to NPR. Glad Juan Williams' is gone. I never liked his bias opinions. I don't think Mr. Williams is upset. He got what he wanted, $2M.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bertina

      Exactly, he's crying all the way to the bank and Fox is allowing that to happen.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dissapointed but still supporting

    Did NPR make a mistake in the way they handled this firing? Yes. Should Vivian step down because of the way she handled this. Yes. She and NPR should talk realize that she has damaged herself as a CEO and is damaging them by association. However, I am still going to listen to and support NPR. Where I live, and I am pretty sure this is the case in many other locations, NPR is the only alternative to Dave Lavin, Hannity and Limbaugh I have when I am driving in my car if I don't want to listen to a music station. Every week they read viewer mail and present both supporting and opposing comments. This differs from conservative talk radio is where they read opposing comments and follow it up with shouts of "idiot" or the like. Also, following this firing, other analysts on NPR condemed this firing as a mistake. We should consider them as well and not let this one incident totally define NPR. If NPR dissapears so to does Car Talk, Wait Wait, non-opinion dominated news radio and one of the only places where you can hear classical and non-top 40 music. If they leave, those of us without satallite radio would be left with Hannity and friends and whatever music Clear Channel decides we can listen to from the billboard charts.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carlos L. Sutter

      Agree. Schilling should be fired as well. Her personal demeaning comments about Williams were wrong; unqualified for any CEO, certainly one representing NPR – she should have known better. So were Williams comments for spreading unreasonable fears, equating how you dress with Terrorists, supporting bigotry; unqualified for any NPR analyst – he should have known better. Freedom of Speech does not mean absence of all consequences, nor does it mean absence of other Rights from exercising their Freedom as well. Let's all remember that just because you have the RIGHT to say something, does not mean you should say it, have to say it, or it makes it necessarily a good idea. That is, we should also remember our Right NOT to say stupid thoughts, opinions or feelings. It matters where, when, and how you express your opinions, we just have the Freedom to choose it.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. beethovenopus27

    No freedom of speech = No tax dollars

    October 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dissapointed but still supporting

      Repeatedly breaking contractual requirements that you agree to when you got the job = firable offense.
      Nothing to do with freedom of speech.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • SATdragon

      I totally agree with "totally disappointed but still supporting"!

      October 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bertina

      Then there should never be a claim of getting rid of tax exempt status to very opinionated church leaders.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jared

      Bertina,

      Quit frankly....that's a totally ignorant comment. There's a difference between a tax exempt organization and one that receives Federal Tax dollars. NPR could go on as a tax exempt organization just like a church, but it would cease to receive federal tax dollars. Do you know of any churches that receive DIRECT federal tax dollars for support?

      October 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • rafael

      Jared, yes. It's called faith-based initiatives. Started with Bush.

      October 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hot patata

    While I fully agree that NPR's kneejerk handling of the Williams response was ill-advised, hasty, and lacked any measure of careful deliberation, it is done. Let's now focus on what Jim DeMint and his colleagues are saying and doing: They propose cutting NPR's federal funding for being one-sided and ideologically biased; essentially, they are "intolerant, liberal extremists". The scary thing here is that, in this case, this "extreme intolerance" seems to be an unwillingness on the part of NPR to allow an associate of theirs to publicly espouse blatantly prejudicial feelings of fear and mistrust on people based on their religion, or at least their APPEARANCE of being part of that religion. Mark that. Now, here, in the 21st Century, in the veritable LAND OF THE FREE, it is "extremist" to react negatively to this kind of broadcasted bigotry. If you agree with DeMint and his ilk, if you support the stripping of NPR funding based on these merits (no matter if you agree with the firing or not- I don't myself), I would like you at least identify the truth of this position, and for you to recognize that you cannot support this action and still believe that all are created equal, with equal protection under the law. Thank you.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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