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 F

    Isn't it interesting how Vivian Schiller is willing to apologize to EVERYONE under the sun _except_ Juan Williams? She didn't even think her ad hominem attack of "between him and his psychiatrist" required any form of personal apology. But there you have it – your tax dollars at work.

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

      NPR gets only about 4%-6% from the government, the rest comes from individual stations who pay for the programming, and they get their money from members, so your "tax dollars" comment is for the most part incorrect.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Kristina

      NPR should receive 0% from the public coffers. I can understand public funding of C-SPAN, which is a truly non-partisan, non-ideological outlet. NPR is a purely ideological outlet, and as such, should not receive any public funding. Schiller's slanderous comments about Williams and his "psychiatrist" in a public forum demonstrate that she is not suitable for executive leadership. Hopefully, this blatant exposure of the liberal elite agenda will spur more individuals to call for their public funding to be cut.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Dudgie

      John, she actually did apologize for the "psychiatrist" comment within hours of having said it.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • jthan

      Kristina - and everybody else out there bashing NPR - do you ever really listen to the station? To call it a "purely ideological outlet" is so far off the mark, it makes me wonder. There is a liberal slant to its cultural programming (i.e., not mainstream) but if you pay attention you'll see that they do a pretty good job of fairly reporting and analyzing the news. There is political commentary, but I'll say two things about that: The commentary programs are set up to give all sides of the issues a voice, nobody gets shouted down, and more importantly, they never try to pass off political commentary or opinion as news. Did you listen to their story about the Tea Party Movement? Or the interview of Carl Paladino? They don't deify or demonize anything, they just report and give their listeners the credit for drawing their own conclusions. To insinuate that NPR is the left's equivalent of the right's Fox News (which truly does verge on propaganda) is at best uninformed.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amercaneedsrealists

      LaLuna, that small percentage you refer to amounts to almost 100 million dollars, not how I want my tax dollars spent!

      October 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristina

      Hey jthan, yes, I have been listening to NPR for about 22 years now. I do believe that NPR espouses a liberal Democratic agenda, just as I believe that Fox espouses a conservative agenda. Even when I was a liberal Democrat many eons ago, I did not support the public funding of NPR. I have two friends that work for my state NPR station, and I have had this very discussion with them regarding the local programming. They privately admit that they do skew liberal with content and guests, as they believe that they are best addressing their audience demographic with a liberal viewpoint, and this is how they best support their "brand."

      October 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jthan

      OK, Kristina, so you listen, and you have friends who work there - and I see from other posts that you're going to vote GOP, which is fine. This is less a political discussion for me and more an issue of how the news is reported. Personally I don't buy into ideology from either side of the aisle and I fear that Fox News is in the business of tapping into people's emotions and selling them spin instead of letting them process facts. Since you seem smart it's disappointing to see you comparing NPR's organization and delivery of their news content to Fox's; surely you don't think they're on the same level?

      October 25, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AC

    Bring Rick Sanchez back! Let's have some balanced reporting on CNN, bring the only reporter who brought some levity and Hispanic balance to CNN, bring Rick Sanchez back!

    October 25, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. pare


    when r u going to be a fair and balanced. U get liberals only on ur show. This is like mutual admiration scoety and u try to make a point of what? fair and balance media?

    May be this is the reason, CNN is loosing viewrs.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    Never had an inclination to listen to NPR and now I never will. Juan should feel a sense of vindication and NPR should feel a sense of backwardness.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chalie

    NPR sold the rest of their soul for a million plus dollars. Disgraceful! I hear Nancy, (The Great Speaker), will be looking for a job soon. The only thing wrong with that relationship is that she doesn't do Fox.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    The decision to fire Juan Williams shows that NPR' management is completely out of touch with everyday Americans.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. russinmaine

    "Protect our integrity', exactly how does one protect that which one does not posess to begin with?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Journalistic Ethic

    I work in non-commercial broadcasting and I defend the write of freedom of speech every day. In journalism, not advocacy journalism or yellow journalism, but the type of press we depend on to provide the facts to stories, which is what Juan Williams was paid to do, you are to remain neutral in your viewpoint. You should also refrain from making public and political comments. This is an issue of ethics and logic, folks. As news people, Walter Cronkite, Fred Friendly, and Edward R. Murrow tried to remain out of the public eye except when reporting. Now, our journalists have become celebrities that demean and corrupt the nature of the news.

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

      It is great that a broadcast jnournalist has such a grasp of the english language that you don't understand the difference between right and write.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. brian d

    I wonder if this story would get this much attention if it were a white analysti who freakin cares ppl get fired every day im sure the douce will be just fine

    October 25, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  10. mk2

    @ Allen

    You call Juan Williams a Bigot so it shows you did not take 2 seconds to read what he actually said. What he said is that if you have anxiety about flying with a muslim after 9/11, no matter how strong you should never let it turn to bias or bigotry. In your blind liberal zeal and usual liberal knee jerk response you have failed to actually read what Juan said for yourself.

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

    Juan Williams was NOT at a party, casually talking to "friends" nor was he at the table with friends & relatives and completely free to voice his opinion. In his capacity as a journalist he had been warned many times before that he could not publicly speak out with his own forum. It's not whether you agree with what he said or not, he knew he was on TV, he knew the tape was rolling, the micophone in place and HE HAD BEEN WARNED BEFORE. That is the issue, not whether other people feel the same way he does. Simple.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • A. Goodwin

      100% agree with you. He was warned by NPR...and he violated their ethics policy. If I violate my ethics policy at work (and yes, working in the engineering world...we have plenty we need to live by) – I would too get let go. I dont really care what he said, to whom, etc. But, I support NPR in their decision on this. They should have fired him after his Michelle Obama comment, frankly. This goes for EVERY journalist at NPR – not just him. If there are others, get rid of them too. People like me want to hear about the news without all the BS!! Is that too much to ask for?

      October 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ingorami

    Has anyone who has posted here listened to Williams' statement in its entirety? The "offending" remarks actually have quite a different meaning when listened to in the context of the point he was articulating.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. rrock

    Vivian Schiller should be fired. She clearly is not competent to run NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Manhands

    The dude was fired for breach of contract. It's not censorship. He can go rant about the evils of Islam on Fox all day and night since they don't have any problem promoting fear and stereotypes. Get over it.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. Josh

    NPR has every right to fire him. If one of their white journalists was on a talk show and said that they get nervous when a young black man approaches them, the cries of racism would be deafening and that journalist's firing would be heralded as not only appropriate, but completely justified. It is only in today's culture of Islamophobia that is being not only tolerated but marketed by the right that this man is not being called what he is, a bigot.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
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