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. The_Mick

    dave wrote: "Employers in the US have the right to fire employees for any legal reason." +++++ True – if it's truly a "legal" reason. We do not know if Williams was slapped on the wrist in the past, behind closed doors for his comments on Michele Obama and others. I know that when fellow teachers were fired for "something", that something wasn't the first problem associated with that teacher. And, like teachers, Williams may have had a clause in his contract not to be controversial -even in his private life- because it could bring unwanted bad publicity to NPR or turn off potential listeners.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. AM in VA

    Let's see I don't watch FOX and I don't listen to NPR and I contribute $0 to either. I do however listen to Car Talk on a podcast in my car... I wonder where Click and Clack come out on this issue ?

    October 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Franky

    Too late, NPR! Your funding WILL BE PULLED THIS in January!!!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    That's a fake apology. Any apology someone writes with wording that essentially says "blah blah sorry..blah blah""...but "oh yeah we still mean every bit of it"....OR one that does the usual " the the extent we offended you"....both styles are your clue to someone handing you a fake apology.

    I'm not that deep into politics.....I don't toe one side over the over just for the sake of being with one side over the other. I think that's silly when people do that. Anyway, firing Juan over what he said was ridiculous, IMO, REGARDLESS of what your political view is/was. I mean come on how sensitive are we really getting in this country....So now we are supposed to LIE in order so others don't get upset? There was NOTHING wrong with what Juan said....AT ALL...I don't care if you are a complete Lib or an Ultra-Conservative...if you got your panties in a wad over Juan's comment you are just a complete....jack hole tight wad who needs to get a friggin grip on reality....maybe go out more too, breathe some fresh air.....

    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. Franky


    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • rpb

      Exactly, this letter is a desperate attempt to keep the public funding coming. We'll see how well they sit when the american people demand it be pulled! Fire the entire top staff for this debacle.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    People don't appologize for make right decisions, they make appologies for WRONG ones. NPR did wrong!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Brian Nordin

    I believe NPR is the best news program in the nation, period. First, it gives news an entire hour – without commercials – to investigate and examine our nation's complex issues. No other news organization does that. Second, in examining almost any controversial issue, they consistantly will invite both the "right" and the "left" to give their respective sides. No other news organization does this as well or as consistantly. Lastly, I am an avowed liberal democrat in the tradition of Roosevelt and Johnson, but I tire of both MSNBC and FOX NEWS: I WANT NEWS, NOT OPINION AND / OR SOUND BITES. The Big Three (ABC, CBS, and NBC) can not cover complex issues in 18 minutes (actual news time – 12 minutes of commercials) – AND, all three are moving more and more into a "news magazine" format, covering "fluff" news, like Paris Hilton or a movie. If you want news, NPR is the place to go. If you like politics, NPR on friday's has both the "left" and the "right" represented in a 20 – 25 minute discussion on the week's top political topics. Frankly, I enjoy hearing the other side's comments as long as they are made in an intelligent, respectful way. You will never hear that on either Fox News or MSNBC. Thank God for NPR. A free Press was one of our freedoms that our founding fathers valued highest – to check the government AND to check the people, presenting the closest thing to the "truth" as possible. Brian

    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • True

      Obviously they allow a free debate, I'm sure the firing of someone for expressing their feelings isn't indicative of an environment where you say what is expected of you or you are gone. People are blind, you can have someone on their "representing the other side" and basically tell them what they can and can't say. Cosmo does it all the time, they hire writers to write what 'men think', but they tell the author 'write this' and if he won't, they just get someone else to write it. If you look at the gender demographic of the leadership their at NPR you'll see a similarity with Cosmo. lol

      October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • ApeHanger

      First, it gives news an entire hour – without commercials – to investigate and examine our nation's complex issues.

      Of course they do. When someone like George Soros, along with U.S. taxpayers, is funding your operation you don't need revenue from commercials. Of course, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and with wack-jobs like Soros providing money to NPR, guess what kind of music we will hear?

      October 25, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. wlv

    NPR has journalistic integrity? Anyone care to hear what NPR DOES allow its "journalists" to say and still keep their jobs? Let's just hope none of us gets on Nina Totenberg's bad side. She can wish us death by AIDS. But she'll keep her job! Wake up, liberals!!! NPR is interminably slanted. They did Juan Williams a favor. He's FAR better off away from that hypocritical organization.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. TexEcon

    By NPR's standards the entire country of France is bigoted because it banned burkhas. Surveys have shown that of people who listen to NPR, about two-thirds of them identify themselves as "progressive" or "liberal," which, of course, fits in with their idea that they are smarter than those people who "cling to their guns and religion." C-SPAN is what NPR should be like. It is truly objective but somehow it is run without taxpayer funds.

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

    Awesome. $240 back in my pocket per year. I was getting tired of Terry Gross's rants anyway. I should have cut bait in the 2008 elections, but this weekend's On the Media, which only presented JW's infractions, but not Ms. Schiller's, was the final straw. Thank God I can still listen to my favorite show–American Public Media's Marketplace–as part of a podcast.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. Barb

    Juan Williams said whatever Bill mO'Reilly wanted him to say. He is a PAID pundit of course he says anything for money.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  12. rachael

    Was Jaun representing NPR at the time of the statement? When is he allowed to speak for himself?

    October 25, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. xsited1

    A white woman at NPR fired a black man. Sounds about right.

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

    How interesting that despite the fact that many liberals, centrists, and conservatives have rallied around Juan Williams, I have not read nor heard a word from the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • ApeHanger

      That's because Williams doesn't agree with what Sharpton and Jackson represent.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. Angie

    I see here that people are saying that corporations have the right to fire individuals if they want to. First of all, they have to have a legitimate reason, if not, they have a lawsuit coming their way. This was a political firing, I let the lawyers decide...regardless, I plan not to contribute another penny to this enterprise. Make no mistake, this is not a 'public' station.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
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