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. Bobbi

    NPR fired Juan because of complaints from one person – CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad

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

    How is it that in an apology for not handling the firing of an employee, the author of this message again crosses the line by describing prior performance shortfalls of the employee? Does she not get it when it comes to employee relations? Absolutely unacceptable. In any other company, an executive that clearly does not understand and demonstrate such fundamental practices would, at best, be working in the mail room.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. nicoleandmaggie

    NPR employees are also not allowed to go to the Daily Show Rally to Restore Sanity. So they're even-handed about their rules.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. steveinkc

    NPR is nothing but a machine which perpetuates ignorance in the masses, to control the masses.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. EAL

    Where's CNN apology for firing Rick Sanchez????

    October 25, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. JR McDonald

    As a 45 yr listener to NPR affiliates it has been a very disappointing week. The firing of Jaun Williams has to be the very lowest point in the network's history. Ms. Schiller's memo doesnot begin to repair the damage. I hope the board of directors begin a very though examination of the entire incident beginning with a review of the entire Williams discussion of the FOX show. Having watched the various clips provided on other news outlets it would appear that Mr Williams statements were very balanced and not at all inflamatory or disrespectful of muslims or Islam. If fact Mr Williams did an exceptional job to point out just how outrageous Mr O'Reilly's comments on the view were to all people.

    The leadership at NPR has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation with examples of the past failures of Mr Williams that would have led to his firing over these comments. Appearing on alternative networks to provide balance to stories has been a wonderful way to present counterpoint arguments. His comments and analysis will be missed on NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. Keith

    I fail to see what any of Juan Williams' comments on NPR have to do with free speech. Juan has every right to say whatever he wants about Muslims or whatever, but he should not do so under the context of an NPR analyst. It would be no different than if your boss asked you to present some data and while doing so you offered repeated unsubstantiated and outrageous claims about the data, then scream your First Amendment right had been violated when you get fired for it.

    We have rules of conduct that apply to any profession. And while I strongly agree many analysts often stray off the path of objectivity (and NPR could have handled this more professionally themselves), it seems that NPR finally had had enough of WIlliams' conduct and canned him for it. That is not a First Amendment issue no matter what FOX or anyone else says.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • ApeHanger

      Williams didn't say anything about being a NPR analyst while commenting about his feelings vis a vis Muslims on planes. I watched the O'Reilly show on which he made his Muslim comments and at no time did I hear anything about NPR while Williams was speaking.

      The real motivation for his firing, I believe, is his association with Fox news. BTW, this is a classic example of a female boss shooting from the hip, something that I witnessed many times when I was in the corporate world. There definitely wasn't much objective thinking going on in this case.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. William Peterson

    Regarding the feminine hygiene product mentioned by poster TRUE.
    You expect people to take you seriously after making a statement like that?
    I don't care about Juan Wiliams or NPR. Not one little bit.
    Your statement makes me ashamed for you.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • True

      The management team of NPR has a history of managing that organization with a badly hormone effected ego. As sad as my original comment was, its closer to the truth than you can possibly imagine... Which is the really sad part

      October 25, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. Old Soldier

    I always rather enjoyed watching Mr.Williams in roundtable discussions. But an analyst can NOT develop nor broadcast his personal feelings on issues he's analyzing as a professional. (As a military analyst myself, I had to watch my mouth or my advice/input would be considered tainted.) We will never know the facts, but it seems too coincidental that he made these strong comments on Fox non-news and then received an immediate job with Fox following his firing. Looks like he laid out a tactical shift to support a change of jobs. The large signing bonus was the cherry on his sundae. Now he's free to make lots more moolah with Fox than NPR could pay. Good tactics for him and Fox! Now he's free to expound on a bully pulpit with more money in his pocket and Fox has a poor, disadvantaged employee they saved to protect his right of free speech. Good for his profile too. Not many knew his name...now everyone knows his name. Even bad advertising is good advertising. Good on you Mr. Williams..you should do well alongside Rush, Hannity, Palin and O'Reilly. I never liked NPR and Fox: too extreme and boring from both ends of the spectrum: now it just got worse. And Ms. Schiller: you just got pimped!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. Catie

    NPR only regrets this because they miscalculated the left not backing them up!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. Donny

    What a joke! There is – and hasn't been – any "integrity" at NPR in quite some time. The liberal-owned and liberal ran media don't hesitate DAILY to make their own, strong personal opinions obvious. The real problem was that Juan Williams' views were not in line with theirs! Enough of this garbage though – go back to Obama TV, er, I mean, MSNBC!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. john

    How about NPR president saying Juan needs to see a psychiatrist? Completely out of line and shows the real motivation for his firing. NPR is completely wrong in this senario.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. adad

    Sometimes when a group of rednecks come on to the bus I get nervous.. .. I guess I should loose my job too.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. WWRRD

    NPR has a right to choose their analysts. They should apply the same standard when talking about Christians. I have repaeatedly heard blanket statements about christians with nary a word from liberals. Juan Williams is no racist. The fact remains that muslims have commited the majority of international terror over the last 20 years. PERIOD

    Iranian Hostage
    USS Cole
    Beirut Embassy
    Bali Bombing
    World Trade Center Bombing #1
    Shoe Bomber
    Time Square Bomber
    Mumbai India Assualt
    London Subway

    Get the picture. This is why average Americans and westerners feel uneasy around people they believe are muslims. The muslim garb makes identification easy. However, the fallacy is that most of the terrorists don't where muslim garb. They dress to blend into their surroundings.

    I completely understand Juan's statement of unease. I think muslims need to be sensitive that the problems they have with extremists is making them look bad to the general public. They need to more agressive through word and action to counteract this extremist view

    October 25, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • mpouxesas sardanapalos

      nice ...analysis...but does anyone ever (really) question why 'muslims' commit these acts?

      October 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Rustyshunt

    NPR stands for Nightmare Public Relations

    October 25, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
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