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. Seriously?

    NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brett Powers

    This is utter crap. If Juan Williams needs to go, then Nina Totenberg should have been gone years ago for her vicious personal opinions about Jesse Helms.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. James

    I don't think the acute rationale for cutting Mr Williams loose was reasonable. What would be reasonable is simply to observe that participation on Fox is not consistent with the standards of integrity and balance that are expected of NPR employees.

    As to those whining they'll never contribute to NPR again – I suspect they're the same folks saying they won't vote for Obama again either – which is to say, they didn't contribute previously and they voted for McLame/Pain...

    October 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gunjo

    "She is not going to get a call from the WH because the president is muslim...."

    Have you bought gold today? Mr Beck is counting on you

    October 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Edward

    As a CEO you should be aware of the rule to never speak publicly of private matters regarding an [ex/current] employee. What you have done suggests you are the offender here. Juan, as with any human has a right to an opinion on any subject, by doing what YOU have done shows everyone [both employees and the public] you have no regard for their rights and would do the same to ANYONE who doesn't "toe the mark". You have demonstrated that YOU are the one who can't be trusted. You have shown yourself to be an incompetent administrator and the one who doesn't belong. I trust NPR will do the right thing to help save the company and drop you like a hot rock.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chopswell

    I think it's crazy that pedophile pastors and priests get all the attention lately, but what we're not seeing is the 'twisted' muzlims and their performing beastiality on camels and sheep (and that's a majority of them foke out there in the "country" areas (99% of their land masses). These animals can't cry out about their attackers and the attacks are relentless and ongoing! God Bless the Beasts...(and here...) The Children! LooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLooLoo

    October 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry

    These comments are ridiculous. The man was fired not because of his opinion but because he is an anchor for a station that is suppose to rid itself of public opinions and just provide news. Look at it this way.......drinking is perfectly legal but if you come into work drunk you are going to get fired. Opinions are perfectly legal but to comply with their company guidelines he must be suspended/fired. His comments were out of line.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DB

    I hope Glenn Beck or Limbaugh is not planting the 'First Amendment' seed in peoples mind, because it would be misleading. Free speech is protected from criminal prosecution, but not from discharge from workplace. If you hold it so dear, you should not have ever been against gays in military.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John C

    NPR has made a mistake with this firing. Juan Williams made some very pertinent points ... he boldy stated what many other people feel when they go into airports and similar settings. It must of done viewers / listeners some good to know that they were not alone in these thoughts. He made some very human observations. I would think that NPR would want an 'analyst' that could really connect with the audience. He did so with me. John C

    October 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • CuteKate

      New analysts are supposed to stick to just the facts, not opinions. I'm sorry you don't like people who don't pretend their opinions are facts, the rest of us find them more trustworthy.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ZOOMER165

    juan williams is one of the greatest Black journalist around .. i hope he goes to work for Fox News...

    October 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bill r

    npr just lost my vote
    i guess reporters are only supposed to say what the station wants them to say,,,good news reporting, on and off the job

    October 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Suthiner

    Had Juan been white.......

    October 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rod C. Venger

    "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."

    So what "Vivian" is saying here is that NPR employees are not allowed to express person opinions outside of the workplace. She uses the words "public settings", but what is that? A Taco Bell? At his neighbor's outdoor barbeque? As far as I'm concerned, and I think that legally, unless he commits a heinous crime, and perhaps his appearance on O'Reilly qualifies as just that in NPR's eyes, Juan Williams is free to do and say as he pleases outside of NPR's building or other places he may be working for NPR. It's called freedom of speech, freedom of expression.

    One of the first things that "Vivian" should do is rehire, Juan Williams, and then she should resign.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Unfortunatley, Mr. Williams is a personality most strongly associated with NPR. So, he represents NPR in public whether he likes it or not. It's a choice he made by taking that job. NPR didn't like the way he represented them in public, so they fired him. It's questionable ethics, but not illegal.

      October 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      It's part of his job not offer strong opinions as part of a news show. It affects how trustworthy he seems. He was aware of what the rules were for his job and he broke them.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Investigate

    people, a muslim is not a skin color – why do liberals insist on equating a comment about an islamic world view with black people? It is truly a red herring and trying to throw the debate off topic.

    October 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Observer

      Because that's the way hard-line rightwingers treat it. It's racism, and equating what's happening now to civil-rights era happenings is a fair comparison.

      October 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    The news media have become shills for whatever political agenda they happen to support and it seems that they are more concerned about ratings than they are about actually reporting the news. The news media these days seems to be much more about entertainment rather than reporting actual news so that people can form their own opinions about issues. NPR reports the news and as far as I am concerned is one of the few media outlets that have any integrity these days.

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