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. Sean

    If you work for a company, be it non-profit, like Habitat for Humanity... and you express views that show your biasness....you'll be fired. Journalists are.... journalists. They cannot have their own opinions, like it or not. They can put people who share their points of views together, and make them speak for him/her, but they cannot have their own opinions expressed on National television. Use facts and not opinions.... I don't have a problem with Bill O'Reilly, he's closer to a journalist than some on Fox News.... Hannity isn't a journalist... but Fox News put together thrashes and Gold, that it's nearly impossible to attack one, and not accidentally attack another. NPR is a little too harsh in firing Juan, but Juan is wrong is speaking up his opinion... remember, when you're paid a salary as a journalist, you cannot have an opinion unless your network endorses you to do that.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • sherry tucker david

      Then why are some on NPR given a free pass to express their opinions?

      October 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Al

    Juan didn't have the courage and integrity to admit that he was no longer allured by the high standards of NPR. He consciously or unconsciously engineered this firing. A braying ass is not a journalist. Many do not seem to understand this.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. holly

    perhaps you should look up other NPR commentaters like Nina Totenberg who basically suggested that because someone disagreed with her they should die of AIDS and not just him but his granchildren aswell.. Yet she still works there and they got 10,000 complaints for those comments. Or the commentater who suggested that people who belivied in the rapture were crazy and it wouldbe better if they disappered anyway. These two people were reporters Juan Williams was an anaylist not a reporter. He is supposed to give his opinion. None the less explain why you can suggest someone should die and not get fired?

    October 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Watchyournews

    My problem is, NPR is supposed to be unbiased, and many of you commenting on here talk about Fox being extremely right wing, I even saw Racist spewed out to a person who watches fox news. I am not a regular listener to NPR, mostly because i would rather listen to music i enjoy than the droning of someone about news. But i have heard some of the reports, and a lot of them have a liberal stance to them. It is PUBLICLY FUNDED, just like PBS. And really, they fired Williams because he made a Muslim comment, not because it was breach of contract, he had been in breach of contract so many times, it is ridiculous for anyone to think that this was the reason. My problem is many Americans, are soo brainwashed by their choice of media outlet that they are unable to see the bias in it. CNN, MSNBC, NPR, have liberal bias, while Fox News has a conservative bias. I fit neither category because I have my own views on politics, like both parties are absurdly corrupt. But call me a teabagger, a racist, whatever. I didn't Like Bush and I don't like Obama. I haven't honestly cared for a candidate since before my time and his name was Bobby Kennedy.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Marco

    Congratulations Vivian! You have been awarded the National Distributor's Award for "Crapolla"!

    October 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    Sadly, they still don't get it. The issue is not about timing regarding the firing of Juan Williams, it the fact that he was fired at all. I would hardly consider myself as conservative, and I was equally offended by his firing. I listen to NPR regularly and remember Juan Williams as being quite an adequate news analyst. Personal differences between the management of NPR and Juan should be something dealt with in a less public manner. His firing seems to wreak of corporate cronyism and doesn't look like something I'd want to support with my hard earned money.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shawn

    Everyone seems to not know or not address that he was warned previously about his involvement with other news organizations. It's hard to justify a person in your employment trying to be creditable and unbiased as a journalist and then go onto Fox like another ranting talking head given editorial opinion, when it's presented as news.

    Nobody was squashing his free speech. He chose not to live by the standards of NPR and they chose to let him go, even if to quickly. All business give people a chance but if we don't do what we are told we all stand to lose our employment opportunity.

    FYI to those less knowledgeable that NPR and other public media outlets only receive 10-20% of their operating budget from federal dollars.

    Yes NPR has a liberal lean but these days anything open, balanced and unbiased is considered liberal...and liberal by definition means open minded. The data is out there...people trust NPR more then any other "for profit" media outlet...that says something. When I just want the facts w/o the shouting heads I turn NPR on...I just cannot take "for profit" media anymore.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rich

    While I agree that NPR over reacted in firing Juan, I would also suggest that Jim DeMint and his cronies look in the mirror when they speak because that is where their judgmental arrogance of intolerance and injustice is most true.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. RayBordier

    I like NPR & Juan Williams. They went together like peanut butter and jelly or like muslims and terrorism.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rwatt

    Wow, Williams didn't guage his free speech perfectly, but the high paid brass and CEO's at NPR have ignited a PR nightmare. They should be the ones terminated.

    The NPR CEO's justification for Williams firing is bit concerning. The CEO has decided to speak of his work record as having patterns of deficiency and "troubling," not only to all of NPR's employees but the www. Wow, some HR attorney for Williams will get a hold of that one. Not only, did the CEO say their were mistakes handling the Williams termination, but she has compounded this mess for violating his employment privacy rights.

    Also, the ceo speaks directly about Williams and not NPR policy that he was told. This has to bring up all the other analysts/contributors who go on other shows and haven't received this treatment as Williams has.
    Several npr contributors or analysts have stated political views on other programs. Hope NPR is not going to fire Cokie Roberts for her stance on abortion, gay rights, and a host of other issues that she has had strong opinions on other shows.

    Williams statement needs to be read in its context, it was explaining a fear and the repercussions of that fear and news pundits role. This wasn't a Helen Thomas riff, or an IMUS bad joke.

    Finally, the NPR decision has springboarded Williams into a free speech hero, added another propane tank and log on the tea bag camp fire , has aided in strengthening the view of progressive/iberals/democrats as political correct to a point of paralysis, and has intensified the erroneous label of NPR as left wing biased media.

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

    Juan was overqualified for NPR. NPR is little league and For or CNN is major league.

    He will do much better on Fox or any other real news agency. He will be able to speak his mind openly, work for a real CEO, and make 5x the money.

    Win – Win

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

    His comments are offensive. What if I were to say that I pull my teenage daughter closer to me when an African-American man walks by (because God only knows what they may be wanting to do to her?) Mr Williams of all people, being African-American should acknowlegde that one day we may live in a world where a man is not judged by the color of their skin (or dress) but by the content of their character. And he also must acknowledge, as an adult, that he takes ownership of the statements he makes, his professional position, and the possible consequences of his actions. He had sufficient prior warnings that he was jeopardizing his standing on NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. One Taxpayer

    If Juan William for the President of the United States and Republicans and Tea Party Junkies for members of Congress.
    The outcome = successful america with tiny population.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pachy

    I have always listened to NPR and the NYT's for their liberal slant, as I listen to FOX for their conservative take. Are we truly that naive to believe that NPR is everyman's news source. Given this we should make sure that NPR drives revenue from those who believe and trust their platform.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anne

    The saddest thing about this whole debate is that being opposed to stereotypes and negative comments about Muslims is only a "liberal" point of view and that saying offensive things about muslims or any other group is only a dissent from liberal views. Wow, that says a lot about the right wingers around here that saying something offensive about Muslims (or gays or whoever) is acceptable and right up your alley and only liberals disagree with such opinions. How proud the right must be that the "liberals" are the only ones decrying this sort of behavior.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
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