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.

"Respectfully,

"Vivian"

soundoff (891 Responses)
  1. mack the knife

    This all started when senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas was fired for expressing off-the-record negative comments about the Jewish state. Nobody in the establishment news media – citing first amendment concerns – came to her defense.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. boocat

    I listen to NPR on the weekends and I never heard of this guy but I think they were wrong to fire him. This political correctness in this country is really getting ridiculous.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rollo Tomassi

    Please,.. Williams has been a shill for conservative interests for years now. He knew exactly what he was doing when he went on FAUX News. A journalist with his resume and tenure fully understands the difference between reporting and opinion, and he spoke in order to have a believable exit from NPR. Anyone thinking this wasn't a blatant career move is gravely mistaken. He'll be enjoying his $3M contract with News Corp while the Tea Party clones cry about free speech. It wasn't so long ago that Glen Beck made exactly the same move to FOX from CNN with all the same pseudo-indignation.

    October 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Just Sayin'

    Maybe Vivian should join the liberal sided "View"

    October 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • myfault

      I agree. Where was all of this NPR editorial integrity when Daniel Shor, Nina Tottenburg and Terry Gross spouted their obviously left leaning opinions? Hmmm...... oh, wait....that was probably different.

      October 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • sherry tucker david

      I agree with myfalut 100%.

      October 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DB

    Being PC is ruining our country... Remember what Khrushchev said, "The US will fall from within"

    October 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mack the knife

      Yeah – just like the Soviet Union!

      October 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. L. Nozru

    If Vivian Schiller is as concerned about NPR as much as she says, she should resign her position immediately.
    She obviously has bad judgment and NPR and PBS are too important to the country to be managed
    by a screw-up.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos L. Sutter

      Agree. But keep Federal funding the idea of news, programming and reporting with a larger people-based support. Those that are crying about it, get also busy cutting Federal funding for your particular one-sided church. Yes? Aha, that's what I thought...

      For the record, I support Freedom of Religion, which includes federal support ($$) to maintain all churches, even if I disagree with all of their hateful views, as it also supports my freedom FROM Religion, and right to debate their hateful views as it entrenches on my rights.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tom in connecticut

    How did we turn NPR's firing of Mr Williams into a discussion on right wing censorship. Hugh?

    October 25, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SATdragon

    News journalists are supposed to be neutral, not expressing their own opinion. If one want to express one’s own opinions, go be a professor—it is safe there when research is backed up by data! I think J.W.’s comments on the Muslims were expressed in poor taste and he was quoted to have repeatedly expressed his very own opinions on the air. If one cannot fulfill his job responsibilities and abide by the contract, he should be let go. I think NPR did the right thing. However, the whole process was very poorly executed. They should have thought about “repercussion” and how the public was going to react to this. In any case, I will still listen to NPR and support my local station! It is one of the best news programs I utilize when I travel by car!

    October 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nowaybro

    It is the greatest misnomer that people think "Freedom of Speech" means that they can say whatever want and not be held accountable. People can always be held accountable for the words they say. Freedom of Speech applies to the way the government holds you accountable, meaning they can't restrict what you say unless it puts others in danger. What is considered dangerous is determined by our laws. This does not apply to the private sector (your job) where your employer determines what you can be accountable for saying. Republicans constantly complain about too much government in the private sector. Yet they insist Juan Williams in not being afforded big government standards and condemns how employer in the private sector wants enforce their own code of ethics. Yet another in the long list of GOP hypocrisy.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carlos L. Sutter

      Excellent point. Thank you.

      October 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    NPR should be stripped of their federal funding. Why should my tax dollars and the tax dollars of other conservatives be given this liberal "National Public Radio" corp.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SATdragon

    News journalists are supposed to be neutral, not expressing their own opinions. If one wants to express one’s own opinions, go be a professor—it is safe there when research is backed up by data! I think J.W.’s comments on the Muslims were expressed in poor taste and he was quoted to have repeatedly expressed his very own opinions on the air. If one cannot abide by the contract, he should be let go. I think NPR did the right thing. However, the whole process was very poorly executed. NPR should have thought about “repercussion” and how the public was going to react to this. In any case, I will still listen to NPR and support my local station! It is one of the best news programs I utilize when I travel by car!

    October 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Glenn from Cary

    Vivian –
    It wasn't the messaging, it was the messenger. I know it's hard to admit you blew it, but it's time to think of the network not yourself. You embarrassed NPR a thousand times more than Juan Williams could have. Please go away now and stay away.
    Respectfully
    – Glenn

    October 25, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Calvin

    Boycott NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SATdragon

    This is not about the conservatives vs. the liberals. This is about America's views on the Muslims!

    October 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Don Beal

    I am grateful for NPR. There is nowhere else to get insightful and interesting coverage of current events. Williams expressed his very biased opinions on Fox, Rupert Murdoch's conservative propaganda machine. Now, of course, Williams will be able to capitalize richly on his opinions, as has Glenn Beck and others, and not have to be concerned with objective thought and presentation.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
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