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. CB

    You can "fell the awkward" as you read liberal postings defending a liberal NPR executive for firing an honest black liberal journalist due to issues of ethics and integrity.

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

    Juan was fired for soeaking his mind... which is not his job as a reporter... he deserved to be fired and HIRED at Fox where they don't do any reporting.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • DSolomon

      And who does reporting anymore. Ever listen to Keith Olbermann talk about how much he hates Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity etc? What sort of reporting or analysis is that?

      October 25, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tom

    I am scared, I am very scared! When are we as a nation, founded upon Christian principles going to deal with the ever growing threat of Islam? I am not a religious person, but I now understand the need to convert those misguided souls to Christianity. Argue that point? Defend their subjugation of women.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Honestea

      Being a Muslim means that I and all other Muslims are on the right path, by believing that there is no God but Allah and that prophet Muhammad is his messenger. We will never be misguided into converting. You have your religion and we have ours. And that does not mean we should hate any one with a different faith. Islam is a religion of peace.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Juan wandered off the Liberal plantation and got put in his place by the Massa.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    Whether he should have been fired or not is debatable. However, NPR's enforcement is inconsistant and hypocritical. It;s OK for N Totenberg to wish that Jesse Helms gets AIDS? (July 8, 1995)

    October 25, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • DSolomon

      or one of his grandchildren

      October 25, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. DSolomon

    Perhaps she should be sorry for WHY he was fired instead of how

    October 25, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Nils H Wessell

    If Vivian Schiller's stated rationale for firing Juan Williams was his purported violation of NPR policy prohibiting their analysts from voicing personal political opinions, how does one square this stated rationale with NPR's willingness to allow their other employees to make endless (and all too predictable) commentary of a politically correct, liberal persuasion? It is hard not to see hyprocrisy and double standards on Vivian's part. The bottom line: if NPR gets Federal funding, it should be defunded as an ideological and partisan news organization. Let NPR survive on the largesse of its liberal Democrat donors.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lee M

    Well I guess I am a bigot because I get nervous when I see the garb in a mall, on a plane ect. So I am a bigot now oh well I have been called a lot worse in my life.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gavin01

    The refreshing thing is, at least the NPR pundits will freely express their dissatisfaction to the firing instead of being fearful of a Newscorp-like backlash. NPR Member's disgruntle letters will also be aired openly as they are every week. But all in all, I don’t tolerate prejudice and bigotry and I am glad that NPR did what they did. Replace Juan’s “Muslim” with “black or mexican” and it instantly ignites a familiar breach of decorum. We all feel this way but aren’t you paid to “report” on how I feel an not how you feel?

    October 25, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. Honestea

    I would like all who mentioned the word Muslim "garb", since when so you see Muslims in America wearing garbs?! Williams statement was unfounded and inflammatory.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. MarylandUSA

    NPR has repeatedly been challenged to answer, "If you fired analyst Juan for airing opinion, why haven't you fired correspondent Nina for the same 'crime'?" Once again, NPR has responded–surprise!–with deafening silence.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  12. Capt. Neutral

    The US government shouldn't be using tax money to fund partisan noisemakers, which is pretty much what NPR really is.

    If I want to support a liberal agenda, I will do it on my own. If not, I won't.
    If I want to support a conservative agenda, I will do it on my own. If not, I won't.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Observation

    This story is a perfect example of how our freedom of speech to express a personal point of view is squashed by shills of Corporate America. When are we going to wake up and realize we live in a corptocracy that has gone global and that we have no voice or control over what our corporate controlled government dishes out for us! Remember there are more of us then of them! As a matter of fact we work and toil inside the belly of the beast. It's time to wake up to know and express our power to stop this crap.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. steven

    juans opinion about muslims in garb on a plane is shared by most americans... that opinion was just a small part of a much larger conversation and was taken out of context... vivian made a comment about juans sanity which a personal opinion and I'd like to know why she still has her job especially since she has apologized twice..( her comments about juan and how he was fired).. her apology should have been followed with a resignation.. is this what leadership is about these days.. looks like it to me.. what its going to cost to settle juans termination should come straight out of her "bonus" post tax..

    October 25, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. General

    NPR CEO Vivian Schiller needs to be replaced as CEO, and quickly, before the groundswell of the unfavorable reaction of the public causes permanent harm to NPR. Her emotional reaction has undermined her effectiveness as a leader. Her decision to terminate Juan Williams, the manner in which it was executed, and her attempts to rationalize and justify her behavior all are clear evidence of a lack of competency. While she accuses Juan of erring with his genuine personal comments about his feelings, she has clearly carried out a personal agenda in her time as CEO of NPR. She has caused NPR to move away from the objective, neutral and unbiased, and toward her idea of what is "politically correct". This does not reflect in any way the opinion of the majority of the public. If she is not removed as CEO, two things need to happen. The first is that the letter "P" and the word "Public" need to be removed from the name of the organization and it's initials, as it does not represent the public in any way. The second is that all federal funding, direct or indirect, in all forms needs to cease. We should not be spending the tax dollars of the public on an organization with a personal agenda.

    October 25, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
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