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. j

    "No you are the one who is bigoted!", "No you are!"

    Seriously? Every person on earth holds bias and makes value judgments based on incomplete facts. That's just being human. Save the self-righteous zealotry and fist-pounding diatribe for the Nazis. Or are YOU a Nazi, you bigot!?

    October 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David

    i consider myself liberal, but what that cow did was dig herself a hole. what he said was how he felt. we all have the right to our own opinion. he's better off, and he dosn't haft to work for a cow anymore!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Just sayin'

    Apology accepted. Now YOU'RE fired for exhibiting poor decision skills in a crisis, making a situation worse, causing NPR to lose respect and independence. You should be ashamed. Instead, you are fired.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. john

    I was very surprised by this type of action coming from NPR, a respected news source. Juan Williams is a highly respected commentator and it is sad that he was treated in such a disrespectful manner. It was an opinion piece and he was giving an opinion. It is also certainly a free speech matter and I understand and agree with those who believe that government funding to NPR needs to be re-examined in this case of their obvious violation of free speech rights. I'm sure Mr. Williams will get another job quickly but the NPR's image will take a big hit.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rock on Juan

    NPR is the best thing on radio. Hands down. No doubt about it. It seems the reactionary comments by many here come from those that don't even know what Juan did for NPR, let alone listen to any NPR programs on a regular basis. Go ahead and drop words like LIBERAL (make sure it's in CAPS) and try to define for us bias and journalistic integrity. Simple truth: Juan displayed his personal opinion in a public forum in-part as a paid news analyst for NPR. His comments no longer make him fit to represent any credible news service on any issue. I hope you have fun in that cesspool of pathetic pseudo-journalistic crap that only Fox News can deliver. Rock on Juan.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristina

      This is the problem with ideological assumptions Juan. I do listen to NPR, and have every intention to vote GOP in the midterms.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dant

    I'm amazed at how many posters don't know what free speech means. You won't go to jail, but yes, you can be fired for what you say.

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

    We have known for some time that Fox News joins the clowns at MSNBC in being ridiculously biased and provides an "opinion based" news coverage. It is not surprising at all to see these organizations retaliate against someone who disagrees with their views or is involved with the "other side". Unfortunately, we now see that NPR joins that group as well. I listen to NPR every single morning, and this is not enough to make me mad enough to stop listening. I will, however, never donate another dime. If they want to act like the children at Fox and MSNBC, they can put on some ads and pay for it themselves.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Raj

    The firing was necessary! There is no good way to handle a situation like this and it would have been a uproar no matter how it was handled.

    The facts: A person says that he get nervous when he see people with a Muslim garb on a flight – implying all Muslims are terrorists – which is what O'rielly has stated. That is wrong!!

    If I saw a black person walking towards me and I thought that I am going to be mugged – is that being bigoted?

    If i saw a South American / Mexican looking person and I think – there goes an illegal immigrant – is that being bigoted?
    I would say YES!!

    If a person is really a terrorist, the last thing they would do is to dress up in a manner that would attract attention to them. I am from India, wear a turban but I am not a Muslim. I get searched at the airport all the time – part of what I have to live with to for my choice of having a turban.

    I do not expect NPR to have bigoted people working for them!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TooFunny

    I think its funny that as long as Mr Williams was defending current administration and Democratic party he was allowed to voice his opinion with out firing. Suddenly one to many opinion (even so it was not really opinion) got him sucked very quickly. Is that means NPR had problem with him defending Obama administration. I think its very sad the the only person who could explain pres. Obama to FOX viewers in intelligent, and communicative fashion got fired. What gives NPR?

    October 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MRK

    Freedom of speech is just fine, but this man is supposed to be a journalist. That means he has a responsiblity to his work duties to present an impartial view. Expressing personal opinions such as this, when employed as a reporter, means you lose credibility. I applaud NPR for their actions, holding this man to their journalistic standards. He's apparently disregarded them before, and as a result he lost his job. How about the media stop dwelling on this one man who just got a $2 million contract after losing his job, and focus more on the THOUSANDS of Americans who are losing their jobs right now, and don't have millions waiting in the wings? We have far more important matters in this country than Juan Williams.

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

      We have more important things than to worry about Juan Williams firing, of course, but if you care about truth and balance and hearing what people feel, thne you want more than fact reporting. That is boring. You should be concerned about the act of the firing because it dehumanizes Juan and all of us. What is behind the firing is that notwihtstadning Juan was not reporting news for FOX and he was not an NPR commentator on FOX at the time of his statements, NPR felt like it could reach out and fire him. That is impetuous if not unethical. I for one listened to NPR for all the views offered by intelligent people and I often wonder what the people feel and think. I am not going to be afraid of all muslims because Juan might be. He told us how he feels at a particular time and place, travelling on aircraft, that does not speak to how I feel. Let this slide withut expressing concern and what will you ignore next?

      October 25, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Art W

    She will regret it even more after NPR loses their Federal (a.k.a. Taxpayer) funding.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. isay

    As a huge NRP fan for nearly 30 years, this CEO must go. Her lack of judgment is inexcusable. If Juan Williams (whom I never, ever liked, as I found his comments rather stupid most of the time) can be canned for making a silly comment/mistake, then she should suffer the same fate - quickly and as publicly as possible.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shane

    Hyper-sensitive, emotional overeating, overreaching into the affairs of others, a busy-body and continues to want to talk about it.....

    yep, sounds like a woman, in this case a CEO...no doubt, if you are looking for a reason as to why the nation has become this as a whole, look no further than woman joining the work force. Not that it is a bad thing, but.....it is NOT without consequence, I'm just illuminating it because you are afraid to. And If we don't like the consequence, it takes an openness to confront it before any change will be made.


    October 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      The firing of Juan Williams for talking on FOX News and expressing a fear of people dressed as musims dress in a specific context, and by the way, taken out of context, is because women have joined the work place? The firing is a consequence of women working? That is simply incoherent.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. timbalaya

    This woman is a poor excuse for a CEO and should be fired...her behavior is not professional and incompetent.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mikey

    Classic intolerance of the LEFT.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rock on Juan

      Classic example how someone would rather have opinions and be told how to think, than having an unbiased source to formulate your own thoughts. Especially someone who mindlessly uses LEFT in all caps to talk about intolerance. Nice job.

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