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. MaverickUW

    In my opinion, what this woman did was far worse than what Juan did. He expressed his honest feeling, one probably held by many Americans. In her firing, she chose to make a harsh, mocking comment regarding him seeing a psychiatrist. This at best was a personal attack that was uncalled for, and at worst a disparagement of all those who do need honest psychiatric help.

    The message here? It's bad to state your feelings, but it's allright to mock those needing medical help.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Adrian Zupp

    I recently blogged on the Williams firing and included a footnote about NPR.


    October 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    AAAGH...so it's jFINE to ABRIDGE SOMEONES FREEDOM OF SPEECH by FIRING THEM if they have OPINIONS different than the BOSS (private donor George Soros)? At least the fact that NPR is a COMPROMISED news and opinion source FOR SALE is no longer news!! NPR is a PUBLIC TRUST not a PRIVATE CORPORATION you freaking LIBERALS!!

    When the tide turns and LIBERALS are getting fired by NPR for SPEAKING THEIR MINDS, conservatives will be saying "where were you when they fired Juan Williams! Oh wait...HE IS LIBERAL!!! Hmmm...he's also black. Does that make George Soros a RACIST?!?

    October 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ewolf1981

    The only reason she's sorry is because of the $$$ NPR will be losing. Sorry isn't enough. She should resign and Juan reinstated. I will never contribute to NPR again.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Frank

    What happened to freedom of speech? Juan Williams was on FOX speaking for himself. I trusted NPR beyond intelligence, integrity and truth. I put NPR on a pedastal and listened religiously. I learned to expect the utmost rationality, responsibility, maturity, and widsom. Firing Juan Williams was reactionary, it was not rational and irresponsible, and it had no wisdom. NPR failed me totally in this action. The timing was bad also. NPR and all related media ares dead to me forever. I wil send my donations to Feeding America hereafter. I can be sure they will feed Americnas and not try to be so "politically correct" as NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      I apologize for the typos. There's no spell checker (that I know of) in these blogs.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Souljacker

      There is in Firefox.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pankah

    Most Americans have this wrong conception that Muslim garb makes identification easy and hence terrorist does not wear a garb. But the fact is the Muslim garb only identifies a person as a Muslim "woman" and not as a terrorist. Terrorist know this fact and knows how to take advantage of this.
    Google for "burka bombers” and you will find tons of instances where terrorist used burqa's to attack targets in Iraq, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and many other places. Yes, and you won’t be surprised to know that even male terrorists used burqa for an attack and even used it to flee from there. People won’t dare to stop and question a person dressed in burqa and terrorist know this fact and use to their advantage.
    I really don’t think Juan's is a bigot or even stupid to make such a comment, He is in this business for long and is a real good analyst. May be he knows more about this subject than most of us (the reason I gave you proves it)!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • spotlight

      In context of flying in the U.S. where they go through X-rays and metal detectors, people should be safe flying even they have covered their face or little scarf on their head. Besides, according to the reports, 911 hijackers were all men with western business dress code. Were you safe then?

      October 25, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    I also am nervous when m00zlims board a plane with me. Watcha gonna do george? FIRE ME GEORGE!! NONE DARE CALL IT SPEAKING YOUR MIND AS A PRIVATE CITIZEN!!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • spotlight

      How dump can you be? If you are speaking in a public place and you are a representing some type of org. than you may be fired. Nothing to do with George Soros. It's Juan Williams who get paid to say stupid thing for his mouth. You and Juan and Fox are matched in heaven. Go watch Fox, and let them tell you what the color of your eyes are.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chopswell

    I HAVE TO LAUGH!!!! She quickly discovered that the people who make DONATIONS to NPR are mostly ... AMERICAN ... and don't feel too comfortable on planes with blatant muzlimz either! And since this all went down during a PLEDGE DRIVE, apparently the number of people canceling said pledges caused this lady to speak up with this mockery of an apology! No...NPR screwed up and Juan ended up getting a major bonus because of it. I used to like somethings on NPR (Prairie Home Companion–that's about it!) but they pretty much suck otherwise.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. a slozomby

    " I also regret that this happened when the staff and volunteers of many stations were deeply engaged in pledge drives."

    finally the truth from npr.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mike andrews

    where's Al and Jesse!! Juan was canned and now there's not a one black man on the scene.....c'mon man!!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve (the real one)

    The NPR is "Sorry" enough said. Oh by the way, that would be sorry as in a sorry excuse!

    October 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark

    The point the CEO of NPR is trying to make is that Juan WIlliams compromised the integrity of NPR to effectively deliver the news in an unbiased fashion. It may be the norm today to turn on MSNBC and Fox News and know exactly where the anchors stand politically, but there was a time when journalism was about being unbiased and the newscasters' political affiliation was irrelevant. Was Walter Kronkite a conservative or a liberal? Nobody knew. When Juan Williams goes on a conservative show like the O'Reilly factor and makes statements about muslims, fear, terrorism, etc it makes it difficult for him to be seen as neutral and unbiased by his own political agenda. That's real journalism. O'Reilly, Beck, Stewart and Olberman are just entertainment with a political and news theme. It's not the news in the truest sense.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • AL E


      October 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Jon Stewart is a comedian on the comedy channel. (shaking head)

      October 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oxnard

      So Mark, it is not okay when Juan expresses a personal feeling while not broadcasting on NPR, but it is okay when Nina Totenberg expressly wished that Jesse Helms, or his grandchildren, would get AIDS?

      That is your shining example of REAL journalism?? Glad you cleared that up for us.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DB

    Anybody who has tuned in regularly to NPR knows that most of the ire is from people who hardly tune in.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jemway

      I represent someone that proves your theory incorrect. That is a baseless comment.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Like I said there are some exceptions. Also, if a listener has a similar view, it doesn't make Juan correct. It should make both of them rethink of their own demons.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jemway

    The letter states that NPR has a commitment to diversity, yet also states an expected compliance with certain perameter of values and standards. Then it states that traditional standards have come under siege. This all reminds me of Henry Ford saying you can have whatever color you want as long as it's black. NPR demonstrates an inability to adapt to a changing world. Most specifically, terrorism has certainly impacted traditional values. Standards are not what they were. Despite a determined effort to deny any success on the part of these assaults on our culture, the reality is that there has been. We do not seem able to address issues, within a culture of political correctness, without collateral damage when it comes to discussing the affects of these terrorist assaults. It permeates traditional values and standards and to maintain a state of denial makes NPR dangerous as a vehicle for ignorance. This is unfortunate. We the People need to wake up to the reality of what is going on around us and we cannot get accuracy from an organization that has a predetermined set of values and standards in how it interprets events; the key being interpretation. NPR clearly has a leaning to how it wants news interpreted. Juan Williams, as an analyst was not interpreting in his statement he was expressing a condition that exists both within himself, as an example, as well as a majority of Americans. As a condition it was offered for discussion. He should be appreciated for addressing something that existed outside the hole that NPR insists on keeping its head in.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • celticfaerie

      Oh, and Fox News isn't like that, too.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Corbijn

    The people complaining about this floor me; don't you know anything about journalism? Journalists are supposed to be un-biased in every way when they report. They are just supposed to report the story. NPR is probably the last news agency in America that still does this. Faux news and the way it reports is turning everything into yellow journalism; if the people reporting don't throw a little song & dance its not news. But hey, if you want people like Rupert Murdoch thinking for you go right ahead. NPR shouldn't have to bend to this mentality.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oxnard

      Your are absolutely correct Corbijn. They should allow their Legal Affairs Correspondent to Nina Totenberg) wish someone else to catch a fatal disease (Jesse Helms). Yep, NPR is VERY careful about the opinions they allow.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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