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. Sam

    So the real story was.. should have held off the firing until the fundraising "commercials" were over. Good for Juan.. now he is at a place were free speech is exercised.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Patty

    Juan Williams was not representing NPR when O'Reilly asked him for his opinion. There are others at NPR like the woman who stated that she wanted some politician's grandchildren to get aids who was not fired. I certainly hope that was her own opinion and not that of NPR. If NPR wants to use this as an out, then they must apply this equally. They have not. Their public funding should be taken away. Juan Wiliams will do a hundred times better on FOx than he would of at this leftie outlet. Good luck Juan and NPR will be the ultimate loser in this transaction.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mikey

    I have never listened to NPR. I don't know who Mr. Williams is. I don't watch FOX, so I still won't know who Mr. Williams is. But he was warned, several times, and he did not heed the warnings. So, his boss fired him. She apologized for the way
    she did it, but stood by her decision. Good for her. We all need to move on now. Mr. Williams has a new job, and we've all said our piece. Now, how about solving the problems of unemployment and the soaring national debt, both more important to all of us.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. neonmadman

    Mr. Williams was not stating an opinion about Muslims he just discussed a fear of his, however unfounded it may be. He should not have been fired.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      I understand what you are saying, but he was representing the company for which he worked at the time, and what he said was politically incorrect to say, even though many people probably feel the same way. Just imagine if someone said on the air that Black people make them nervous on airplanes, or Koreans, of whatever. Just because it is Muslims he was talking about does not make it any better. Yes they blew up the trade center, but no they are not all bad, and if if things like this are just over looked the whole country will develop Islamophobia. Maybe thats a good thing, its hard to tell why is right or wrong anymore. Lately is seems like a good idea to be racist and biased against Muslims. (I dont agree with this)

      October 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jon

    in response to the earlier comment by John:

    You said NPR is forming a bias because they chose to fire someone who's opinion they did not believe themselves. In a way, this is true, but they disagreed with William's statement because it is socially and moralliy ncorrect to begin with. They were bringing the issue back into neutral territory by eliminating Juan's language. We do not want people to think all Muslims are terrorist, and the language he used would only perpetuate that fear amongst Americans. Am I wrong? I know there are a lot of people that think ALL muslims are bad, but is this the status quo we are trying to achieve? I think not, we would not want to regress into racist phobia's and generalizations. The opinions of Right wing Americans are more similar to the Nazi views than ever before.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    It apparent that the people here branding Juan Williams as a closet conservative better suited to FOX have never heard his NPR commentaries. As a card-carrying conservative who has listened to NPR for 30 years, I have been repeatedly offended and enraged by Mr. Williams liberal bias and blatant defense of leftist ideology. He is no more a conservative than Reagan was a liberal. Having said that, I am pleased that this episode has exposed the hypocrisy of NPR, and welcome him to FOX, the only remaining "fair and balanced" news organization.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MikeB

    Oh, to be sure, liberals are bigots. Racists, too. The worst anti-Semetic remarks I have ever read have been from liberals. Likewise, anti-Mormon when these clodhoppers found out that Glen Beck was a Mormon. I am Native American and being called a "drunken Indian" and told to "get back on the reservation" is pretty common fare for these racists if they find you wont toe their line. Likewise, just try and write a letter to the Post opposing free trade, pointing out that the U.K., Canada, and Australia saw a 300% or more rise in violent crimes subsequent to their passage of gun control laws; it will NEVER see the light of day! Write CNN, for example Wolf Blitzer, criticising him for featuring some free trade gasbag on his program, serving th guy softballs for ten minutes, andd never allowing any rebuttal, any contrary opinion, and it wont even mke the forum comments! On the other hand, write something critical of Republicans, of their connection with Wall Street, something opposing mutlinational corporations, even something damning of Mr. Murdock to Fox and they WILL publish it and feature it prominently. Just off hand, I'd say that conservatives in general are far less close minded, far more willing to listen, far more willing to allow opposing pinion, than liberals or the liberal media.

    October 25, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. don'tazemebro

    Fox news is good, mmmkay. NPR is bad, mmmkay. Obama is bad, mmmkay and so are the Jihadist, mmmkay. Fox news isn't all racist, just like all fox news fans are not sheep, or closed minded, just like glen beck isn't weird or a guilty of fear mongering. There now, does everybody have a cookie? Man Up!

    October 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • don'tazemebro

      yo man you speak the truth...mad truth in your words son

      October 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Renee

    I stand by NPR in its decision to fire Juan Williams. It's important to note that there were many prior incidents in which he crossed the line, and it would be wrong for the public to assume these concerns were because Juan was leaning conservative in his views. WE DON'T KNOW, because NPR has chosen not to enumerate those incidents leading up to their decision. It's unfortunate that the straw which broke the camel's back happened to be a comment made on Fox News, since now, Fox viewers and conservative political figures have turned this into a right-wing/left-wing issue. I wonder how many defenders of Juan Williams actually listen to NPR?! Those of you who do are welcome to disagree with me. Those who do not should either tune in and see what it's all about, or afford the station president the benefit of the doubt on this one. Otherwise, you're simply jumping on a bandwagon.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Suzanne

    I hope that everyone giving an opinion here has viewed the entirety of Williams' conversation with O'Reilly. If not, you are not qualified to speak as you've only gotten secondhand information, and that, taken out of context.

    For those of you decrying Williams' giving his opinion, let me educate you. He DID NOT give his "opinion." He talked about how he "felt" in certain situations. Feelings, as most people know, are not necessarily reasonable or logical (as any parent explaining to their children that there are no monters under the bed should know). They are visceral and instantaneous, and we all have them. Williams wasn't being analytical here. He was just being human.

    If Williams should be fired for his Muslim comment, Schiller should be right alongside him for basically calling him crazy with the psychiatrist comment. THAT was totally unprofessional and undignified for a CEO.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rooster

    Restore Sanity PLEASE!!! And we are clearly forgetting about the Chileans, what are their opinions on this one?

    October 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    Just think about if he has said this. "I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people wearing FUBU and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Blacks, I get worried. I get nervous."

    October 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roger

    Last paragraph: "You have my pledge that when it comes time to terminate your employment (yes, this means YOU), I will reflect on all aspects of our actions and strive to improve." What??? Hahaha.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. One Taxpayer

    Very Interestesting!
    Juan Williams a leader now and may run for next election.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patti

    Lets try this hypothetical. You are employed full time, you go to your boss and ask if you can moonlight. Boss says, yes, but just remember we have a certain policy regarding xyz, please respect that or you could jeopardize your job. On several occasions, you break the policy. Finally, after several warnings, you boss has had enough, and you are fired. Now, folks repeatedly bring up Nina's gaffe about Jesse Helms (she wished him HIV, not dead BTW), do we know if she was disciplined? Do we know if HR or Sr. Management sat her down and gave her a warning? No, because it is a personnel matter, there is so much we don't know, and should not know.

    October 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
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