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. Ken

    Wah! Wah! Wah! Want some cheese with that whine? Too late to recover from a stupid decision. Probably you should resign and let a more intelligent person take the helm for a while. No matter to me, however as I am through as a listener after many years of following NPR.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Kelly

      "they were singing, Bye, Bye, Miss American pie........"

      October 25, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • LILLIE


      October 25, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Geez

    Just another apology but not really. Its the same old same old. She should have just kept her mouth shut.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • frogger626

      Same thing could be said for Williams.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. The Truth

    Forrest Gump: Stupid is as stupid does Sir. CNN is liberal, with mostly bubble gum news. Fox News will at least debate in some form the general ideas of what Americans would like to see their country become.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • DHarri

      When are the liberals going to realize that they are not able to dupe everyone into believing their agenda based ideologies which is quite evident in watching the various hosts on CNN, and MSNBC and the liberal "virtue of Pity" that is used to promote and win over the various special interests groups. Why don't someone just come out and say that outside of the whole 9/11 thing Muslims will not be accepted by many Americans for whatever reason. This faith is not a part of the American heritage and we have the freedoms to express this as Americans and will not be silenced by the Liberl Media.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Johnny Five

    I'm done with NPR. I only liked them for a few sidebar shows. They offer nothing in terms of news programs. While companies have the right to fire employees for certain things, information and/or news shows should be 100% free speech.

    No revenue for you NPR!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • innertron

      Yup! I could not agree more: No more donations from me. I used to hate FOX ... but since this NPR act or censorship and terrorism Bill O'Reilly ais looking good. Vivian, eat your heart out you liberal ape! No mor e$$ from me.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You never used to hate Fox, innertron. No lying!

      October 25, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. Maria

    "Emotion and hormones need to be checked at the door at executive level positions."

    Hopefully this comment wasn't just directed at women...I can think of a certain recent former president where this should have occurred.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. MB

    Bravo – this is a superb way to deal with a difficult situation, a textbook example on how to do it: adress the issue (in this case, how things were done) swiftly and candidly, assume personal responsibility, apologize without caveat (in first sentence!), explain in a non-patronizing mode and be transparent in what you do. Albeit not as critical in terms of fallout, this should be used in MBA classes on stakeholder management issues (where the Tylenol recall is, rightfully, heralded as the way to do things right).

    Kudos to the leader of an organization that deserves all the support it can get at a time where acknowledging errors and making things BETTER , not worse, by dealing with them honestly is something this society need to encourage for us all to restore civility and ethics in the public discourse.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • newfilter

      You really think this was a good example of how to handle a situation like this? I love NPR and will continue to listen to them, but this situation was handled atrociously. Vivian should step down.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • DHarri

      This is a cheezy attempt at damage control and the only lesson in this whole thing with regards to academics would be to have policies in place to prevent this type of thing from happening in the first place. This would include allowing employees their personal rights to express themselves without repercussions from the liberal Media Nazis.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ryon Acey

    I'm forming a new movement that I will name POOP (People Offended by Offended People). All those who wish to join will get a bumper sticker and button. Welcome aboard to all!

    October 25, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott Arinder

      I'm in!!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I would love to have a bumper sticker, and I'm not the bumper sticker type!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • agFinder

      Sign me up!

      October 25, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    NPR fired Williams for appearing on another network. If Brian Williams did guest spots on CBS, he'd get canned too. They should have done it a lot sooner. Instead, they tried to turn his firing into a self-righteous proclamation of ethnic and religious tolerance. No one's buying it.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Leets

      Great idea, I'll join!

      October 25, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • mari

      Brian Williams comes out on several tv shows, Colbet Report, Late night shows, he states opinion and hawks his books which are based on his opinions. Yeah fire him too.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jude

    free speech is not free. it cost more than half of our national budget to maintain. that to remain a civilized country. this is the best we can get so far.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  10. james

    This story is a series of missed opportunities by all parties. Mr. Williams allowed himself to say some things that I am sure he would resent or regret if the same kind of generalization were made of his own or any other ethnic / religious group (Africans in African garb, Orthodox Jews in orthodox garb, etc.). His comments seem particularly silly and driven by illogical fear - given the undisputed fact that all of the 9/11 terrorists did the best they could to look and dress like everyday Americans, in normal western apparel.

    NPR chose to avoid a serious and thoughtful discussion with Mr. Williams, which would have been much better for all--especially NPR's own reputation as a fair organization. It is hard to see them as fair and reasonable now.

    Fox News took their usual position of arrogance and ignorance, confirming that "fair and balanced" is only a catchphrase, and has nothing whatsoever to do with actual program content. By rewarding and encouraging Mr. Williams' bad behavior, Fox shows its true colors.

    Nobody in this story did the right thing. Interestingly, only NPR had the guts to apologize. I have at least a bit of respect for that--the apology does not, however, make their behavior acceptable.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • mari

      That was not an apology, it was an email to its employees to warn them that big brother is watching and they could get fired for just breathing.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • LauraJ

      The only thing NPR appologized for was the shrink comment, and that was because some well paid lawyers told Schiller to do it in the hopes it would mitigate the damages in the judgment from Wiliams lawsuit. I agree this is a missed opportunity for a much needed discussion in the nation, but the refusal to speak about it starts with the President. NPR is just following suit on the academia left, which is really mystifying and serving no one.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kreczk


    October 25, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  12. LD Nelson

    With the freedom of speech comes a great responsibility, especially when you represent a large and diverse group. People need to feel comfortable with those around them and audiences will only respond in positive ways when they are comfortable with not just how a message is delivered but also who is delivering it. Kudos to the termination of Juan and frankly, today's society should not tolerate any negative views regarding religion or race.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • JR

      Except for Mormons, and the "Christian right", correct?

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

    We can debate this all we want, won't change anything. What is going to change is the moderates out there are not donating to NPR any more. The next congress will slash the 2% of NPRs budget that comes from the gov't (15% of the budget of the stations). NPR's funding is going to dry up, both donation and gov't handouts. NPR quite possibly committed suicide.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. catfishjoe

    Like all Lib's. they are never wrong only misunderstood.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Know2Much

      Exactly. It's YOUR fault for not understanding what they say. Not that what they said was incorrect.

      October 25, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jay

    I find it very disturbing that the entire FOX News community can't comprehend why this guy was fired. As an unbiased NPR journalist, (If you say they're biased, then you obviously don't listen to NPR) you can't say that Muslims make you nervous in an airport anymore than you can say that priests make you nervous at a playground. Both are offensive, but only the latter would get you fired from FOX News, while both would get you fired from NPR. See the difference?

    I do agree, however, that the firing was done unprofessionally. But if every government funded program that ever fired someone in an unprofessional manner were to be cut, I don't think we'd have any left. It is important to note, also, that over 90% of NPR's funding comes from the public, so cutting federal funding wouldn't sink NPR like so many of these tea party conservative candidates are hoping it will.

    October 25, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Jay – simple. They perceive NPR as being left simply because it is ethical. And they want it destroyed because truth and honesty ( they know this well) benefit Democrats politically. A lot of the worst, most un-American Fox News thugs hope one day that all there is on TV I conservative propaganda cause then they think they have a better shot at winning political power. That's the most inportant thing of all to a Fox News Republican.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Much worse was said on many occasions by Nina Totenberg, Daniel Schorr, Bill Moyers, Terry Gross, etc and not a peep from NPR. Let Soros come along with 1.8 million and bye bye Juan. Can't have someone not toe the liberal line.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • joaks

      If he had made a comment about being uncomfortable around gays or transgender, FOX would not touch him.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Janno

      If he had made a politically incorrect statement about being uncomfortable around a Tea Party member, FOX would not go near him for sure.

      October 25, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Democrats only believe in situational ethics. A statement or position is okay if it is for a liberal cause and wrong if it goes against those beliefs. Lying, stealing, cheating is okay if it is for a liberal cause. The vast majority of voter fraud in the country is by Democrats so that is why they do not want to tighten voting requirements. Conservatives believe that law should be applied equally and fairly. Democrats, depending......

      October 25, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
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