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. Ancient Texan

    Free speech? Not on NPR, unless you toe the hard left line 100%.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Employers in the US have the right to fire employees for any legal reason. Juan has a contract and that probably said he could be fired for exactly the reason he was. NPR has the right to chose its employees. Funny how conservatives fight for free enterprise except for NPR. BTW NPR gets about 2% of its budget from the federal governerment. Free speech is a right we have that protects us from the governerment - from arrest. Juan williams will not go to jail for saying he is afraid when he sees black people on the street at night because the majority of people in jail are black -- oops I mean he won't go to jail for saying he is afraid when he sees people in Muslim gard bat the airport. Everyone who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a White conservative veteran - should we all be afraid of white veterans???

      October 25, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • andy

      Since they are real jounalists at NPR and are intended to be objective reporters of fact instead of pundits, he was *voluntarily bound by contract* to not express public opinions as a journalist that would cast doubt on his objectivity.

      He repeatedly violated this part of his contract. He got fired. *Not a free speech issue.*

      October 25, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Austin Texas

      Shouldn't you be listening to the mindless ranting on Fox....or do you peruse the message boards at CNN just to torture yourself and others?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Juan Williams was a news "analyst" by NPR's own admission. That means he analyzes and interprets the news as do many NPR reporters. To claim he must always be 100% objective is disingenuous on NPR's part and certainly not in keeping with how their other 'reporters' related news to us. They screwed up big time, afforded Juan and Fox News millions of dollars of free publicity, and now it is time to move on.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • True

      His job was "News Analyst" which means he is supposed to look at news, interpret larger issues, and conclude some opinion about what is going on. The issue here is, they didn't like his opinion and they fired him for it, even though at NPR his job was to generate opinion.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE SPEECH IN AMERICA ANYMORE. WHAT HE SAID IS WHAT HE FELT, NOHTING MORE, AND THE CEO OF NPR SHOULD BE FIRED. IT'S RIDICULOUS, WE HAVE BECOME A COUNTRY OF PRUDES, WHO ARE OFFENDED BY ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING AND WHO WANT EVERYONE TO SAY THEY ARE SORRY. WELL IF YOU DON'T LIKE SOMETHING I SAY, TOUGH, I'M NOT APOLOGIZING!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Hey dave.... if it is only 2% then they won't miss it, will they? Moreover, you just are not correct in statement. First, many states afford greater employee protection (not everywhere is an at will state). Second, even in at will states there are things that you cannot fire employees for (and you can be sued if you admit to wrongful termination). Finally, many other NPR News Analysists (Michelle Norris comes to mind) go on other news shows and express STRONG (Left wing) opinions. Why are they still employed?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      George Soros gave NPR $1.8 billion last week. He is the king and financier of the progressive movement in the U.S. Do you honestly believe that he will allow free speech and unbiased journalism at NPR? Of course not, he will use NPR as his tool to propagate his extreme left, ultra liberal dogma.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • lionhart

      Why are people attacking the left for something NPR has done? Why are republicans involved and what do they have to do with Juan Williams getting fired? Why are Republicans taking up for FOX News? I smell a rat and it's not "Fair and Balanced."

      October 25, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      FREEDOM OF SPEECH. NOT IN THE U.S.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • John Sheckler

      Let me try to understand that an organization CEO who fires someone for their choice of words admits that she completely blew her personal choice and the organizational choice of words and message. Juan is fired for his choice of words while she simply excuses herself and the organization... Could there be a double standard?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • JonJRaymond

      You obviously don't even know what Freedom of Speech means. He wasn't fired for feeling or saying that he distrusts Muslims. It was for justifying his racism as a valid way to look at a group of people. That being said he should be rehired as should Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Catie

      It's free speech if you're left, hate speech if you're right

      October 25, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Maxy

      Employers may have the right to fire whoever for whatever, but that doesn't necessarily make it ethical !

      October 25, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • busi26

      While NPR's decision to fire Willaims may be debated, it is clear that Williams' statement was offensive. Consider this. What if Williams stated that he gets nervous when black people get on his plane? Would you support NPR firing Williams for that?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Umbra1980

      Word

      October 25, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      What NPR did is reprehensible. Juan was not presenting a public view but rather a personal feeling

      October 25, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Don

      what a bunch of liberal ideological CRAP! This lady screams hypocrisy so loud that even many liberals recognize it and cringe, but she is oblivious to it. The more she says, the stupider she looks. Keep on yapping away lady. She has to get these apologies out so as to try to lessen the effects of the lawsuit she will be facing, but only makes things worse with more comments. Her NPR is loaded with left wingers on talk shows who give their radical lefty opinions all the time, and she has no problems with them. Only Mr. Williams. Funny how that works. Well "Vivian", keep digging your hole. Maybe NPR will get shut down altogether.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      I must have missed the part of the story where he's being arrested and charged by the Government for what he said. Because that's the only way Free Speech would have anything to do with this situation.

      It's funny that the ones who talk most about their "rights" are generally the ones who have no idea what they are. Maybe you should have paid more attention in 9th grade Government class.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      You are missing the whole point. A news analyst can not go public on a conservative talk show admitting his personal feelings/fears of a race/culture/religion. As soon as he did that, his credibility when it comes to analyzing the news (his job) loses all integrity. Anyone listening to or reading his reports questions whether it is derived from fact or his own personal bias. From that point on, he is basically wasting listener's time and NPR's money.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • a

      @Nick
      Your point that they wont miss only 2% is not a valid reason for getting rid of the funding. As far as At will employment states yes you are correct that they protect you for being fired for a couple of reasons: race, gender, orientation. None of which he was fired for. Even at a state that offered employee protection, I don't know of one that protects an employee for repeatedly breaching his employment contract.

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

      You bet your sweet ass if I am in line at the airport and two or three appear in middle eastern garb I am going to have second and third thoughts about getting on that plane.You(Vivian) probably don't ride the public airlines (on the corporat jet ?)and I bet you don't go down Martin Luther Kind Blvd in any of the major cities in this country,or anyother ethnic neighbor hoods...Juan called it like most American see it and think it get your head out of you rump look around quit trying to be politically correct report the news but first come out and walk among the real people hear what they have to say!

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

      While NPR's decision to fire Willaims may be debated, it is clear that Williams' statement was offensive. Consider this. What if Williams stated that he gets nervous when black people get on his plane? Would you support NPR firing Williams for that?

      I don't recall any planes being blown up by black people. As for getting nervous, I get real nervous when far leftists get close to a microphone. No telling what sort of communistic BS will be emitted.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Weeweed up

      No, that's the Republican party.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkInDallas

      Hopefully this won't double post as my comments didn't post the first time....

      I am a listeners and supporter of NPR, however, what they and most people defending them here seem to be missing (probably because they didn't hear the whole quote in context) is that Juan Williams was using his personal feelings as an example of how we all need to NOT just act on our gut feelings to deprive people of a certain group of their rights.

      He was not saying he thought it was rational or right to feel that way. He was specifically telling Bill O'Reilly they may share some of the same gut feelings, but the way they act upon them is different and that O'Reilly should be more tolerant of Muslims.

      To not even allow this kind of discussion is a great shame on the part of NPR. If this is against NPR policy, then NPR is making a mockery of "All Things Considered". Their credibility has really taken a hit with me on this episode.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Mooney

      And we have the right to which dial we turn to. 2.0% is too much already, it should go to ZERO after the election.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. steveinkc

    Liberals are typically spiteful in their decisions anyway.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Goodwin

      So, all knowing one – how do you know that any of the individuals involved are liberals? NPR was founded on the principals to serve both sides of the debte on politics – not one side. That is why it is so successful – because you get to hear the news and not what they want to feed to you. Over a Fox, you know you are getting a republican slant to the news. Over at MSNBC, you know you are getting a democratic slant to the news. NPR – free of the BS. So, please tell me how the "liberals" have anything to do with your position? Yeah – thought so.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Catie

      Don't stereotype

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

      How would you know? You sound like you spend all your time listening to Rush Limbaugh!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      @ A Goodwin If you think NPR is free of the BS, then you must be to the left. It didn't get the nick-names "Radio Havana" and "National Socialist Radio" without good reason. They are perfectly in their right to fire an employee, but the question is the double standard. Nina Totenberg a few years ago, stated that it would be justice if Jesse Helms was diagnosed with AIDS or that one of his grandchildren were. She's still working there. That's just one example.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • C'mon

      What a stupid statement.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Weeweed up

      Oh yes Steve, that is sooo exclusive of the left. The nutty right has NEVER done or said anything spiteful. Isn't it hard to be so right all the time? what a burden it must be.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. NetNinja

    4 legs bad 2 legs better!

    October 25, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ed in Virginia

    I will never, never contribute another $ to NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • drew

      now YOU are the bigot Vivian accused Juan of being. hypocrite!!

      October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • S. Cooper

      You never gave a $ to NPR in the first place.

      October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Ed..How much have you contributed to NPR in the last 2-years? I would wager a bet of $0?
      Juan should have been fired 2-years ago because he has been walking both sides of the street (or trying to) at the same time.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Carmar

      Neither will I contribute again which is exactly the reason for the "apology". They have been reprimanded for similar actions to their employees in recent years, some who left in a cloud of dust. Best to contribute your hard earned dollars to a more worthy cause.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Jack very interesting post. I didn't know NPR walked on one side of the street. Now I know. Thank you. i thought they were supposed to be objectiive.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Lee, New York City, NY

      You're absolutely on the right track, Ed. NPR has been abusing the public trust for a very long time. They fear irrelevance without towing the left mentality. As for its CEO, she should be fired without dealy for the way she handled the whole affair. No real, experienced, sensible CEO ever fire anyone in such a reprehensible manner. Her type got to where she is probably for all the wrong reasons. The only way NPR can regain some credibiltiy in the eyes of us all is to get rid of her and the one who called Juan. They're amateurs with just one redeeming quality: the ability to string a lot of words in a short span of time. No sensitivity, no sensibility, and certainly no brains. By By Vivian, if you don't want NPR to bite the dust. Your rating are no longer justifying your existence.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Shaman13

      @Ed in Virginia – Ed, I've been a listener and supporter for NPR for years, but I agree with you. Not only will I not contribute to the next pledge drive, I've stopped my credit card from accepting the monthly donation charges I pledged last year as well. I feel that NPR no longer repsents the beliefs I respect and hold dear.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      probably never did in the first place.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      How much did you donate last year Ed? Whatever it was, I will double it. They won't miss your cash at all (although my guess is, it was $0).

      October 25, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Catie

      Uh people, if you have a job and pay taxes you are all giving to NPR

      October 25, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      NPR!?......Im done with them!....not one contribution!........and why is my government tax money going to them?!......

      October 25, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Umbra1980

      NPR always had little objectivity – now it has none.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Goodwin

      I for one will continue to support NPR (and yes, I do contribute to my member station here in NH). Frankly, if you are willing to end your pledge to NPR's simply because they are upholding their own ethics policy – one that Juan Williams VIOLATED – then really you need to be send those dollars to Fox or MSNBC. I for one want to continue to get the news without the political BS that comes along with it.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Goodwin

      Catie – Not entirely true. While NPR does receive some federal funds – those only come by way of grants for which they have to apply for – grants that all media corproations can receive through CBC. However, that is a very small portion of their overall funding which comes through contributions and sponsors.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. WINDY

    lots of hot air from her (vivian)!

    October 25, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Michele

      That's funny....coming from someone who calls him/herself "Windy" LOL!!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    NPR is full of pooh. Cookie Roberts has made worse comments than Juan has ever made, and still she works at NPR.

    Where is Rev. Sharpton or Rev. Jackson? They made public comments about LaBron James, but now are keeping silent on free speach issue? What gives with that?

    October 25, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Yeah, Civil Rights leaders not defending a bigot. Go figure!

      October 25, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Will, so civil rights trump free speech rights? One would think that both have equal weight. Or, do you have an internal scale that is measured by how you come down on an issue that allows you to decide which is more important to you?

      In order to overcome prejudice one must first admit the feelings, and then discuss their root cause. If these discussions do not occur, than the ignorance of prejudice thrives in the silence. The only people that an outcome of silence helps are those that profit from the fear, bigotry, prejudice that thrives when the natural human reaction to differences is not discussed in open and honest manner.

      And as far as Rev. Sharpton or Rev. Jackson being leaders of anything other than their own public image, PFFFFT!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • lionhart

      You have the first amendment right to call your boss a jerk but you have to take the consequences when he fires you. Juan got fired for breaking his contract plain and simple.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      He does have free speech, Free speech has consequences, NPR has ethical standards that do not let their news analysts voice "strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings". He spoke his mind in violation of his contract and he got fired. It would have been a free speech issue if he voiced an opinion and was arrested for it. You have(and he) have a right to voice your opinion, you do not have a right to have a job if you violate the standards that your company imposes.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. icedawg

    Shameful, Shameful

    October 25, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rino

    Oh...she apologizes. Everyone ok now?

    October 25, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • xsited1

      A white woman fires a black man because he was acting like an 'Uncle Tom'. Nothing to see here.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fossil

    What is particularly galling is NPR's self-labelling as "a highly objective news organization" Not quite. Fox News may be biased right, but NPR is just as biased to the left. NPR has clearly demonstrated the Orwellian reach of liberal multiculturism and diversity worship.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Everyday People

      Fair & Balanced = Highly Objective. Lies continue to be told as the world turns.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. blucorsair

    Its fun watching the thought NAZIs eat their young!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    Notice the usual liberal theme here. It's not that they really did anything inappropriate, it's only that they didn't do a good job communicating their acheivement to the ignorant masses. Sounds like President Obama explaining why no one likes Obamacare or the Stimulus.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Employers in the US have the right to fire employees for any legal reason. Juan has a contract and that probably said he could be fird for exactly the reason he was. NPR has the right to chose its employees. Funny how conservatives fight for free enterprise except for NPR. BTW NPR gets about 2% of its budget from the federal governerment. Free speech is a right we have that protects us from the governerment - from arrest. Juan williams will not go to jail for saying he is afraid when he sees black people on the street at night because the majority of people in jail are black -- oops I mean he won't go to jail for saying he is afraid when he sees people in Muslim gard bat the airport. Everyone who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a White conservative veteran - should we all be afraid of white veterans???

      October 25, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • VCMD

      NPR has not right to fire someone to express their personal fears during their off time. Juan was not working on a NPR program at that time.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • snoozeulose

      hey dave...tell that to the man who got arrested for ripping up the Qur'an. Seems like cival rights are trumped by political correctness these days, and the average person has had enough. Vivian is losing the public relations battle because or her arrogance and in my view her slanderous comments. Her memo today will only fuel this, and as I said prior,will not be stopped until she steps down....

      October 25, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      @VCMD, I bet if you looked real close (I haven't looked so I could be wrong) when he was on Fox, I'd bet that at one point or another they put up a lower third that said something like "Juan Williams, NPR News Analyst". If that was the case he was representing NPR.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. snoozeulose

    Seems like the only reputable thing Vivian should do is fall on her sword and resign....Until that happens NPR loses all credibility, and will never get a cent from me.....

    October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  13. StopBeingCrazy

    The point wasn't free speech, it was journalistic integrity, and NPR is pretty much the only news organization that still strives for it. Juan broke contract, plain and simple. NPR was probably heavy-handed, but were fully within their rights to terminate his contract. Fox is just trying to take potshots at NPR, since they despise integrity.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Truth in Change

      Ha ha ha if you believe NPR has journalistic integrity and no bias, then I'd like to sell you a box of cow paddies. I promise you they are fresh, 100% free range, grass fed and they will grill up real nice.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Chuckmd

      I was an avid NPR listener for many years; in fact, I still listen while driving to work. However, several years ago, I became very interested in history and politics, reading many books on each topic and constantly searching out news from many sources. I found NPR while it tells a good story for a good length of time never actually gives you all the facts of the story.,,,

      October 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • California

      You said "t was journalistic integrity, and NPR is pretty much the only news organization that still strives for it. Yeah right integrity. It's ok that Nina Totenberg said on NPR about Jessie Helm" because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it." So once again it's ok for a Liberal to make bigoted or nasty comments as long as it's about a conservative no matter what their race. One could easily say that all the negative comments about Mr. Williams are racist or bigoted Just like the Liberals have been spouting if anyone says anything against Obama. Liberals need to look themselves in the mirror before they call someone a nasty name.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  14. biff

    As long as you pay taxes, YOU fund npr (national proletariat radio). Want free speech back? Take it back! Demand to defund npr.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • will

      you do realize that NPR gets no more money than any other radio stations don't you?

      October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • tim

      You found 2% of the parent organization and about 10~15% of the member station budgets. The majority of funding comes from member donations. Also, the majority of programming is not political. Clearly you have never listened to NPR.

      Lots of people's taxes go towards things they don't want to support, 2 unnecessary and costly wars for example. Get over it and quit complaining.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. Fossil

    Williams committed ThoughtCrime. Doubleplusungood. He is now an unperson at NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
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