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.



soundoff (891 Responses)
  1. John

    I don't get it... If she made the right call then why is she sorry that she did it during pledge drive? If it was the right decision then donations to NPR should have skyrocketed. There should also be dancing in the streets and shouts of "hallelujah" for journalistic integrity.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. BB

    Basically Juan Williams said "I am afraid of people in Arab garb", in other words "I am a bigot". Well that may be good enough for FOX news but not for a true news organization like NPR. He deserved to be fired.

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

      They don't want a true news organization! Look at these Fox News thugs posting here. They want a conservative totalitarian state with a conservative propaganda state news. Anything else is too far left.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    Just another nail in the coffin of Narrowly Philosophy Radio. How much do I have to donate for them to fire Meeeechel Norris?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Biff

    Typical liberal media. We believe in free speech, as long as it supports our views. Otherwise, censorship.

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

    Too far to the right or to the left will leave you in the ditch.

    I tried posting something on yahoo (respectful) the other day related to the France riots. It was pre-screened and filitered out of the discussion. Even the internet is being edited.

    I am amazed at the degree to which both sides (liberals and conservatives) are becoming less and less able to have a reasonable, fair, enlightened discussion around a topic of disagreement.

    Both sides fling their own version of mud.

    "Kick'em when they're up, kick'em when they're down. Gives us dirty laundry." – Don Henley

    Both sides are playing for ratings. The middle has been squeezed out. It is a shame that this is happening.


    October 25, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. AnOpinion

    Rick Sanchez only said that Jews are not the oppressed minority in this country and he was fired. Where are these free speech defenders in that case. He didn't say anything bad about Jews just mentioned them. And he was not fired for talking trash about Jon Stewart. Juan williams is specifically labeling people based on the way they dress. I dare him say the same things about jews or blacks. Just mentioning the name jew will get him fired from any job. By the way, I don't care much about any religion. All the religious people are delusional.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Calvin Hobbes

    Who is this woman and how did she become CEO of NPR? It doesn't sound like it's because of her management experience. Is this how boards are choosing CEO's now? Not on the basis of ability but sheerly on the basis of political ideology?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael Murphy

    I think it is time to either stop funding these idiots or chop the head off and start with an entirely new management team that has a truly neutral political perspective!!
    SHAME ON THEM for letting a decent man fry like that!!!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  9. Who Let the Dogs Out?

    (NPR) National Liberal Radio. That about sums it up. Had this been a conservative network, the liberals would have ensured that Juan was'nt the only one fired. Vivian's apology is simply a statement saying that she stands behind her bias and manipulative media practices.....with sugar on top!

    October 25, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. Roger Tanner

    I am a long-time listener to NPR stations and have admired the news organization for bringing intelligenct reports on subjects often ignored by other news organizations. However, this was clearly a mistake by NPR executives and no apologies can change that. I embrance the progressive liberal label that some would paint on me, but I too am initially nervous in the presence of airline public transit passengers in full Muslim garb. The fact remains that only a miniscule % of Muslims are radical-leaning terrorists, but a significant portion of terrrorists are Muslim. Let's neither label the innocent nor stiffle legitimate concerns.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Claire

      Yes, I was shopping and encountered a man in shorts and tennis shoes licking an ice cream cone with a woman walking just behind him covered head to toe in black without the means to enjoy ice cream because of her garb–right here in a free society. My first response was revulsion, followed by pity for the woman, and finally I processed it and realized she is just indoctrinated by culture and actually believes this is what she should do.

      And the news all seems to be biased right or left these days. I haven't seen or heard much in the way of moderation on any channel, and I do surf to try to find it. The attacks of Americans' free speech are becoming increasingly troublesome.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. toshmaster1

    The bone heads (that can't read) and watch fox news, are a laughing stock in the industrialized world and are the reason people hate the US.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Claire

      Don't kid yourself. Many doctors and business executives–and politicians–are very conservative and get their news from Fox. And Fox exists to make money, and some very educated people actually like what Glen Beck has to say (I think he's just a showman who cherry picks reconstructionist drivel and apes other celebrities, but I know plenty of engineers and IT professionals who think he's right on). What's really frightening is people who think ANY news network is fair and balanced and not into sensationalism and entertainment. All humans are biased, even us.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Claire

    What NPR doesn't want to say is the reason he was fired is NPR management is afraid of retaliation by islamists if they don't fire him. News outlets everywhere are walking on eggshells trying not to set off the fringe elements. The intimidation is so overt that they will abridge the free speech rights of journalists.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. jpfinn7

    The honest truth is that NPR radio is very much biasded to the left. Vivian paints the picture as a non biased base which is completely false. Just another dishonest tune played bt NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. mfstout

    Juan screwed up. The fact that he's on FOX is enough to justify taking him off NPR. NPR is real news. FOX is a cartoon for racists and idiots. And Juan's response to being fired has shown a serious lack of professionalism and class. When you get booted off the team, you take it like a man and move on. Whining about it on FOX is just going to make the hole deeper.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Claire

      So your bias is somehow superior to that of anyone on Fox? I think Fox's John Stossel and Greta Van Susteran are two of the most brilliant people on television news. He's a libertarian, so of course he demonstrates 'that' bias, and I think she conducts the best interviews on television.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Thomas Bodetti

    The simple fact here is that a white woman fired a black man, and in fact the only black man in that position, how is this not racist? NPR makes me sick.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
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