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. Winch

    Tea baggers make me nervous.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • CypressSteve

      Bigot! Bigot! Fire him NOW!

      October 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dave C

    Ms Schillers remark that Mr Williams should limit his comments to his shrink violatesNPRs own comment policies. In fact, her insinuation that he was crazy because his feelings didn't toe the progressive line says more about the left than ut does about Mr Williams. I look forward to Ms Schiller's prompt resignation, and Juan winning tens of millions of dollars in his upcoming libel suit against NPR. Attorneys are beating down his door begging for the case.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. yankee cowboy

    I guess Juan wasn't liberal enough for liberal NPR.

    I notice they have no problem with their reporters espousing their opinion so long as it's slanted left.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Cog In The Wheel

      Can you offer a reference to when/where an NPR commentator offered his/her personal "slanted left" opinion on national TV? (Just asking 🙂

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

      Cog, no. I think that the dullness factor of most of the commentators on NPR disqualifies them appearing on the cable news junket.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steven P

    NPR regrets. Why? They shouldn't regret a thing. They should have thought it through before firing him, and lived with it. Are they regretting that they look two-faced? Maybe. Are they regretting that they let their "token" go? Maybe. But remember, these are liberals for whom form triumphs function.

    Personally, I support NPR's right to fire whomever they wish. I just wish they weren't funded by us, the taxpayers (no matter how slight).

    October 25, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kristina

    So, is this really a battle between George Soros and Rupert Murdoch, with the American people the unwitting pawns?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Curtis

    I agree with the other guy, we are all drunk. Don't you know what news is and what it means to be a journalist? You think Beck, O'Reilly and Rush are journalists? There is editorial and there is news. A news journalist isn't supposed to go on FOX and talk about how he's afraid of muslims. When's the last time you saw Brian Williams do that?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • DSolomon

      What about Nina Tottenberg hoping Jesse Helms or one of his grandchildren would contract AIDS? Is that what journalists are supposed to do? And even if she were a commentator, is that meaningful analysis of an issue? NO.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. keihan nahri

    Juan Williams was opinionated. Who isn't? Civility is not in having or not having an opinion; it is in how one tolerates others' points of views, without loosing one's cool. The comment made by Mr. Williams was not very smart. Not because of the words "Islam" or "Muslims", but because of the fact that if anybody intends to inflict harm anywhere (let alone in an airplane), the last thing they would want to wear is any kind of a "Muslim" garb. That is why I thought his remarks were not smart. Being afraid of Muslims is not uncommon and people should not be punished for saying so.

    I listen to NPR religiously, but I am always aware that there seems to be an agenda sometimes, driving their programs. I know how to separate fact from fiction for myself. That's why I listen to all sources of news (including Fox, MSNBC, NPR and others) and decide for myself. I had tremendous respect for Mr. Williams appearing on FOX, despite his programs on NPR. To me that was courageous and indicated he was balanced and not intimidated. I think the same of Ms. Liasson.

    Ms. Schiller, however is another example of the nincompoop leaders we have decided to raise to high levels as Americans. They are bullies and ninnies, and act the part. She, along with a lot of other people in leadership positions, should move on to some other line of work, leaving leadership to people who understand it. She is an embarrassment, but there are many other such examples around. We need to find our common sense, or whiter away.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. scieng

    Regardless of whether I like Mr. Williams or not, the way this was handled appears to be criminal. Ms. Schiller would be immediately fired, or demoted publicly, in any credible professional organization. Until that happens, I now consider NPR a low-class organization that tolerates apparent hate crimes against minorities and honest citizens.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. 1913Overland

    NPR CEO Vivian Schiller really needs to apologize to the NPR listeners. Apologizing only to the employees doesn't seem to cut it with me.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tyler

    what I loved about WIlliams's comment is that he never said that he was right about it. He seemed to be saying that though the perception is 99% likely inaccurate, that he still feels that way. Not that this feeling he has is a good thing. The only way his comments were bigoted is if he would have said "Muslims shouldn't fly wearing traditional Muslim clothing, because it makes people scared" or something stronger. It is ridiculous how quick we are to throw out that term "bigot." Just stupid. I just feel sorry for WIlliams that he has to be on Fox News now.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. Larry Feig

    The most egregious think Juan Williams said was not that he was afraid when a Musliim boards a plane. It was him him saying that their wearing of religious cloths makes as statement that "above al else they are Muslim, implying that they are unpatriotic. Would he say that someone wearing a large cross around their neck is a statement that above all else they are Christian?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John Foster


      October 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. 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 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. Salty Bob

    In the beginning man created the gods

    What I think of organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a rare time and country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no! Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO! is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.

    First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination in some cases. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over hundreds of centuries or longer. Sadly the followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us all based on there interpretation of books that are in no way real. These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politicians to pass laws based on there interpretation of these books. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. I hope to never see any religious icons on our flag, because then it would be a good time to leave.

    Second: Religion no longer has a place in the real world. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. A Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religious infringement upon our school’s teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not to pass out fairytales to our children of some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.

    Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of its members, born of a virgin or walk on water or cure the blind sick or to fly. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed the same feats, again they are all wrong. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact these are nothing but stories meant to entertain or teach something to the people of that era nothing more.

    Religion, as an idea has been with us before recorded history from early man’s worshiping of nature to Charlemagne’s murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers in the name of Islam. Coerced observance is the main method almost all these religions use. Worship me or you will be tortured for all eternity or murdered out right. Fear mongering, or coercion is tyranny! Remember the Dark Age’s religions rule in that dark, distant past didn’t serve our ancestors well it certainly won’t serve us any better today! These are the labels I proudly wear heretic, infidel, atheist, man of science, freethinker.

    Third: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religion’s ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws, as well as research designed to help many! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, The wall is crumbling. The time for the burning of witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or religions many other immoral and vile acts committed against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated no matter what religious book or god demands it.

    Anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said and ban together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups hold on our minds and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children could look back in pride an see we did what we did for them and there posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope it`s not layed to waste by then.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Katie

    David Fromme was fired from a right wing paper for not towing the GOP line, no one had a tizzy fit about that. I guess it is a case of do as I say not as I do.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Kristina

      Yes, but this case has visibility, and so people "care" about it, and it generates a lot of comments, particularly since it is happening right before the midterms. I also think that there is a lot of pent up hostility against NPR by the commercial media and they are reporting NPR's discomfort with glee. I also think that the visibility of this story functions as some subtext about the current and future form/state of broadcast journalism and how billionaires are manipulating our political system through the media.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. tim

    I hope Williams sues the he** out of NPR for saying "psychiatrist". The CEO of NPR is a putz. Williams spoke his mind which I believe is free speech, and got fired. NPR recenlty accepted a donation from George Soros – about as far out in left field as you can get – and not a peep. NPR is hypcritical and should be "de-funded." If the LIbs are so fired up over protecting free speech, where does that leave Williams. I hope he sues and sues big!!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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