Accuracy in Media

National Public Radio has concluded its investigation of the firing of longtime commentator Juan Williams by saying that the firing was justified but accepted the resignation of senior vice president Ellen Weiss and denied a bonus to its president Vivian Schiller for their handling of the situation.

The NPR Board issued a memo to the staff that summarized its findings in this manner;

‘We have taken this situation very seriously and the Board believes these recommendations and remedial steps address the concerns raised in connection with the termination of Williams’ contract,’ said Dave Edwards, Chair. ‘The Board regrets this incident’s impact on NPR and will work with NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, to ensure that these actions will be expeditiously completed, examined, and monitored on an ongoing basis.’

Schiller for her part also issued a memo to the staff;

This has been a difficult period for all of us. Now is the time to focus on what we can do to make NPR an even stronger organization and a more meaningful part of daily life for the millions who depend on us each week. I am committed to making NPR one of the best places to work and a rewarding experience for all employees.

Shortly after the report was released Megyn Kelly of Fox News interviewed Williams who reacted positively about the news;

I think it is good news for NPR if they can get someone who I think has been the keeper of a flame of liberal orthodox out of NPR. The idea that she was someone who just had the executioner’s knife for anybody that didn’t abide by one single way of thinking, which was her way of thinking. I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that’s not open to not only different ways of thinking but angry at the fact that I would even talk or be on FOX. Angry at the fact that people have different perspectives and that a conservative perspective might emerge either on FOX or even NPR. To my mind, this is good news for NPR for people who care about news in America.

Williams then commented about Weiss who was the executive that informed him that he was being terminated and criticized her inflexibility.

She essentially called me a bigot for saying that I feared and felt when I am in airports and about to get on a plane and see people dressed in Muslim garb a moment of anxiety about that presence. That statement she said was evidence of bigotry, that she felt there was no longer any place for me because I crossed the line of her journalistic standards. I think what I crossed was her politically correct line in the sand. When I said to her ‘we can talk about this, have you heard the whole interview with Bill O’ Reilly?’ She said she didn’t need to hear anything else, review anything else. She said there was nothing I could say to her face to face to change her mind.

The entire episode has backfired badly on NPR as the firing elicited calls in the last Congress for withdrawal of government funding for the network and is likely to come up again now that the Republicans control the House.

While Weiss resigned there is no doubt that she was forced out for her role in the matter and served as the scapegoat so that NPR could retain Schiller.  The revoking of the Schiller bonus while a good thing does raise the question why such an organization that is largely funded with taxpayer money is handing out bonuses in the first place.

NPR comes out of this a little bloodied and faces potential battles in Congress over its future funding while Williams was quickly scooped up by Fox for a princely sum and is doing quite well as a result.

Maybe Williams should be thanking NPR and Schiller for padding his bank account and raising his profile.

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