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. Jorge Washinson

    He was fired because he hit a Liberal nerve.As I have sa before there is no freedom of speech. His fine for saying what he said was his job.He is the winner.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. USDA Jane

    This knee jerk reaction by NPR smells like what happened to an employee of the USDA when she was fired via telephone while she was traveling in her car. Now NPR will not be getting by donations after they requested it in a mailer sent to me, instead the NPR CEO Vivian Schiller should resign!

    USDA Jane

    October 25, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      Say what you want, but I am donating for the first time, ever. Free speech does not mean there are no ramifications from your employer. Really, do you believe that? Can you walk in the door and call your black boss a N888r, and then say "I have free speech!" Even at a radio station, they have the right to set a policy. Here, that policy was repeatedly broken. Juan W. not only said something extremely racist, but utterly stupid. What terrorist comes to the airport in Muslim Garb? Come on, the 9/11 terrorist were dressed to assimilate!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • KR

      I agree 100% with Jennifer. I think I will donate to NPR for the first time in my life.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. NPR_Is_Not_The_Govt.

    "Freedom of speech" means the government cannot throw you in jail for expressing your views. It does not mean a private employer can't let you go when your views are in conflict with what that company stands for. You can say whatever you want...and deal with the consequences, like an adult.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • JR

      You're right – they aren't the government; they just receive government funding. They should really consider being a genuinely private company.

      October 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    No media outlet should be funded by tax payer money. I enjoy NPR but anyone objective person would understand that they have an organization-wide point of view.

    The CEO of NPR was an embarrassment in her news conference. She should have read prepared remarks of a professional nature. She's didn't appear to be CEO caliber to me.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    It is a shame that public radio is so caught up in political correctness that one must follow the dictates of a particular political cause rather than to reflect on personal feelings. I guess if one is to listen to "public" radio, it can only be to hear one point of view.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. spencer blair

    Probably hitting NPR in the pocket book right at pledge time otherwise Vivian would never admit to a mistake. By the way, since NPR (according to Dave) only "gets 2% of their funding from the Federal Government," they shouldn't miss it. They could easily make that up with another Ken Burns special with over made-up old women begging for money every 8 minutes.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cecil Ray

    The Left Wing is MORE bigoted than the Tea Party. Get to know what is going on rather than burying your heads in the sand. Juan was a reasonable and totally understandable. I listened to his left leaning statements and consider them because he respected and considered the right leaning statements of others. Most left think they are too smart and educated to even consider another opinion. Wake up and and think people!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mike Smoth

    Well I think Juan Williams made a breakthrough and set a great example for all of us. Next time I am traveling in a black neighborhood I know that it is OK to be afraid and guarded. Juan Williams has liberated us all.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • catfishjoe

      Yes set free in away which political correctness will never allow

      October 25, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • mari

      please read the who interaction, he was not saying it was okay.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. Nicholas

    I am a Black American . And a registered Republican. For years I have heard comments from men like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus and even our Attorney General, that could be deemed racist and flat out stupid,. I have always loved my country,don't always agree with the things it has done. But why is there such a distance or races in our country.
    He was fired for his comments and the rest should be as well. I guess you are only have job security when the majority agrees with you. What does that say for us as a nation.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyanna

      ^^ 100% agreed.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      And I guess you think it is ok if I lock my car when you walk by?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyanna

      Jennifer, absolutely!

      October 25, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. catfishjoe

    boycott npr, and all that support it.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • matt

      yea, boycott NPR, and then we will have no news channel that reports any truths at all. i would lay odds you've never even listened to npr. meatball.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Keyanna

    I am a black woman. I also feel uncomfortable seeing people walk around wearing that stuff. If you're coming to America, you have to realize wearing that stuff is going to make you stand out. In regards to your religion being "peaceful", look at how you peacefully support pedophilia by marrying your 10 year old daughters off. Look at how peacefully you oppress your women. Look at how peacefully you treat those that are NOT muslims.

    Here's some more free speech: Stop coming to our country and take care of your own.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      Yeah, and I get uncomfortabe with Black people around my purse. Still think this kind of crap is OK?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • KR

      Yup. I also get nervous when I'm walking and I see some black men walking toward me, especially if they have their pants halfway down their legs, and are listening to loud rap music!

      October 25, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyanna

      Jennifer and KR, I agree with both of you completely. I always feel nervous when carrying a purse, no matter who is around. I also do not like men (or women) that wear revealing clothes and play loud music. These things have nothing to do with any specific race. Please try to troll me harder, you both fail.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Lalo_layslow

      You are such a closed minded person, to even say those things when african Americans sold their own people into slavery and then blame caucasion people. Every race and religion has their moments where they make huge mistakes whether it be when pastors touch children because they think God has nothing against that or whether it be marrying off children. Of all the things you say you tell them to go back to their country? Here is some free speech for you, you are an African descendant, how about you go back to your country and fix that?

      October 25, 2010 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Keyanna

      > You are such a closed minded person, to even say those things when african Americans sold their own people into slavery and then blame caucasion people. Every race and religion has their moments where they make huge mistakes whether it be when pastors touch children because they think God has nothing against that or whether it be marrying off children. Of all the things you say you tell them to go back to their country? Here is some free speech for you, you are an African descendant, how about you go back to your country and fix that?

      Great points. I actually did spend 2 years in Africa providing outreach to displaced and sick women and children. I plan on returning next year and continuing to help. I identify as African American, as I was born here. I do however wish that more African American's would get the message and see that Africa needs our help. It's funny that you mention slavery, because in some areas where I traveled slavery was still alive and well. No one race or group of people can be blamed for slavery as it still exists today. In regards to "God" and pastors, I'm not christian. So I have no idea of what point you were trying to make.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. T

    I haven't read all of the comments, but I find it interesting that years ago, Nina Totenburg (sp?) can say that she hopes Jessie Helms kids get AIDS so he can know how it feels, but they fire a Williams after making a comment that I would bet a lot of Americans can empathize with.

    T

    October 25, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. LMS

    If I am not mistaken the NPR CEO has yet to apologize to Juan Williams for the way his termination was handled!
    The Juan Williams situation is similar to the Tom Vilsack / Shirley Sherrod firing i.e. a blatant over reaction without getting the facts! PC or shall I say interpreted PC at its best!

    Being fired by cell phone??? A new low for NPR

    LMS

    October 25, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Patriot

    Offensive comments, when in someone else's employ, is hardly a "free speech" issue. Read the First Amendment; read the case law. The race or ethnicity of the speaker should make no difference. Should there have been a termination meeting with Mr. Williams? Certainly. Also, NPR is NOT funded exclusively by the feds, but by private contributions. If the feds in some fit of pique want to lift NPR's funding assistance, NPR hardly goes out of business. We will just have MORE of those annoying pledge drives to contend with.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. bobby

    Fox is the reason why there has to be NPR. For the Republican pundits to say of cutting the funding to NPR, we should remind these people that there are also disgraces in the Republican Party. For these pundits, who often times are self-proclaimed having a strong faith in their religion, did they not remember the "stoning of a woman" story? But then again, they are just trying to say the things to get their pay checks.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Satori

      NPR – - and all the other media outlets that spout Progressivism – - are the reason Fox must exist. Odd, isn't it, that the viewership of Fox grows stunningly each year it survives as the lone Conservative voice, while the other TV news shows wonder what's going on?

      October 25, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31