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. Aew

    I think that NPR would have a case if it was said on their show. But if the man is on someone elses show, then we have free speech

    October 25, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff

    Good point Bill. Where are they. Where is the outcry from the men who say they are the protectors of FREE SPEECH.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Drew Williams

    Good for NPR. They made it clear that, unlike Fox News, they are protective of their reputation for integrity. Juan's happier, NPR is happier, everyone wins — especially those who demand reasoned discourse in this age of media-divisiveness-for pay.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. VCMD

    Tea-bagger is someone who tea bags a liberal and then dumps the tea bag in Ocean.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      No..if you think that's what teabagging is - you just haven't met the right woman yet... 🙂

      October 25, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Carl

    What a zero, NPR, is a nothing ! Schiller should be fired along with ALL her staff that was involved with this situation. You talk about poor leadership. Then her mouth over loads her - in a speach after she FIRES Williams. Then she says she's sorry. Sure......

    October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Perryboy

    Don't give NPR a dime!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gautam

    I am an avid NPR listener and this has really left a very bad tatse in my mouth. The high-handedness of the CEO leaves me speechless...and I don't understand why news analysts shouldn't give us their personal opinion. Vivian S needs to go...NOW!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Craig

    What? No mention of her (Vivian Shiller's) inference that Juan Williams was undergoing or needing psychiatric help? That was the most two-faced part of this. Mr. Williams could not state an opinion outside the newsroom but Ms. Shiller could suggest someone is mentally ill in a public speach. If I were an employee I would wonder what she might say about me after termination...and that she would keep her job...but that wasn't mentioned in her memo.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    I think you have to look at the big sponsors of NPR – and ask yourself if that money is starting to seriously skew their actions. I think the most disturbing part of this all was Ms. Schiller's comment that Mr. Williams' remarks were between him and his shrink. A low blow and indicitive of the sort of arrogance that you never want to see from someone who is supposed to represent journalistic integrity and objectivity. After this episode, I strongly question why my tax money is going to support this station (recognizing that it is a small percentage of NPR's funding).

    October 25, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. TexEcon

    “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” - Jesse Jackson, 1993

    October 25, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Teresa Mars

    I was completely shocked and disgusted with how this woman, and the station NPR itself, handled this situation. Free speech and diversity my ass!!! If you are not firmly on the extreme far left, you have no place on NPR. But, apparently, you also have no place on ABC, considering the shameful incident where the hosts of the View reacted to Bill O'Reilly. I was raised in a culture where news people did not express their opinion, but that has sure fallen by the wayside. Disgraceful!!! And, you bigot above, I have contributed to NPR in the past, and not to NASCAR. Shows how ignorant you are.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    The NPR policy, explicitly defined, is that no "news analyst"–not commentator–NEWS ANALYST–is to express opinion in public. That was the deal. He broke the deal before and was warned. He kept doing it. He should have resigned if he disagreed with the policy. If find it curious that less than 48 hours after being fired, Fox News has a whole promotion package signed, sealed and delivered. Sorry, I smell a rat.

    NPR is just about the only place where I can hear a newscast with representatives of BOTH sides usually featured, with reports that last more than 60 seconds. You want to lose this? If so, pretty much all broadcast news, cable, on-air, radio, will be tabloid form, simplistically presented.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. Max

    Vivian is Transgendered today playing the part of Will on this message board. Hows it hanging today Vivian?

    October 25, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. trying2save

    Looks like everyone only understands the language of money......."notice this happened during pledge drive.".........

    October 25, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. U.S. Common Sense

    So ... when can we expect "Vivian" to be called and informed that her contract is being terminated?

    October 25, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Phi1l

      If I were Vivian I would be very afraid of any cell phone call from one of the Chairman of the board's lackies

      October 25, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
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