NPR: Williams “dangerous to a democracy”

Well, NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams is going over like a lead balloon. NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepherd calls it a “public relations nightmare.” Before we get into some of the news coverage of the firing, one huge thing needs clarification.

Most media reports have focused on Williams’ admission that he feels worried when he sees people dressed in “Muslim garb” on flights. Most media reports have done a horrible job of conveying the rest of his comments. You can watch the entire conversation here. If you do that (rather than watch the Shirley Sherrod-like snippets that some advocacy groups supplied), it’s clear he’s admitting to a fear he experiences in order to convey how important it is to protect the rights of Muslim Americans against the sort of things irrational fear could lead to. He speaks about the importance of not painting all Muslims as enemies and how pundits have a responsibility to be careful with what they say. He even disagreed with host Bill O’Reilly’s comments that “Muslims” attacked America (by wrongly stating that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian but, hey, that’s a problem I already addressed in my previous post).

He repeats the error in this impassioned account of his firing and what it means here. There are some really interesting lines in there for GetReligionistas, such as a previous reprimand for saying that Americans were praying for Bush even if they didn’t understand why he was making certain decisions.

It’s beyond clear that NPR was either looking for an excuse to fire Williams or was completely and utterly duped — Sherrod-style, again — by a campaign to get Williams fired. Or both, I guess.

And they’re not helping themselves. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, in defending her firing of Williams, smirked as she suggested that he should have made his comments to a mental health professional or his agent. Yeah.

Various people across the political spectrum opposed the firing, with a few weighing in to defend. And some disgruntled taxpayers are wondering whether the billions they’ve invested in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, of which NPR is a significant part, have been worthwhile.

So let’s see how Brian Stelter, whose media coverage I value and follow, handled it for The New York Times. It was his story we looked at — favorably — yesterday. This story is odd, which I’ll get to in a minute, but it’s also notable for including media professor Jay Rosen’s views (uncredited) on “the view from nowhere.”

The original headline is “Williams Episode Shows 2 Versions of Journalism.” That might give you a hint of the problem. It basically adopts NPR’s own spin that they are a bastion of objectivity compared to FoxNews. And I have no doubt that it’s news to some folks that other folks don’t quite share that view of NPR. But those people should not be media reporters for The New York Times! But even more than that, Williams was a “news analyst” for NPR. If there’s such a thing as opinion-free news analysis, I’d really like learn what that looks like:

NPR said on Wednesday night that Mr. Williams’s comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.” According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman, offered Mr. Williams, who was already a paid contributor to Fox, a new three-year contract worth nearly $2 million in total.

After dismissing Mr. Williams, who was one of its senior news analysts, NPR argued that he had violated the organization’s belief in impartiality, a core tenet of modern American journalism. By renewing Mr. Williams’s contract, Fox News showed its preference for point-of-view — rather than the view-from-nowhere — polemics. And it gave Fox news anchors and commentators an opportunity to jab NPR, the public radio organization that had long been a target of conservatives for what they perceived to be a liberal bias.

The rest of the article is more of the same. It never once mentions the unbelievable comments made by the NPR CEO and it never includes perspective from anyone who thinks that some NPR programs fail to uphold their “objectivity” standard.

Or take this:

[Vivian Schiller] said that his most recent comments “violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.” Ms. Schiller, the general manager of NYTimes.com before she moved to NPR in 2009, declined an interview request.

Like many other news organizations, NPR expects its journalists to avoid situations that might call its impartiality into question — an expectation written into the organization’s ethics code.

Oh, you mean like when NPR’s own Nina Totenberg said that she hoped Jesse Helms and his grandchildren got AIDS and died? Remember how she got fired for that? Oh wait, no.

I was going to say that even though the story retells the events from Monday night, it fails to note that Williams was not giving people his opinion that they should feel fear of other Muslims. However, an updated version did mention that.

It does end with quotes from Williams’ essay:

He continued in the essay: “Now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one-sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.”

The other thing worth looking at is NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepherd‘s 1,400 word take on the matter. She seems to do a bit of the head-buried-in-the-sand thing when it comes to addressing whether NPR’s programs — in addition to being smart and good — might lean ever so slightly to the left. But she explains how Thursday was a day unlike any other for NPR. Their computer systems were unable to keep up with the correspondence from folks wanting to weigh in on their firing of Williams. The vast majority, she says, are furious. But I’m not sure how well she researched before responding. For instance, she appears to be misinformed:

Later in that segment, Williams did challenge O’Reilly’s apparent contention that every Muslim on the planet is an extremist bent on attacking America.

Um, feel free to criticize O’Reilly if you want. But stick to the facts. O’Reilly didn’t say that “every Muslim on the planet is an extremist bent on attacking America.” In fact, he said that he thinks it’s ridiculous that you have to point out that not every Muslim is an extremist every time you talk about Muslim extremism. He said something like, “What are we, third graders?” Again, disagree with him as much as you want. But accurately convey what he said.

Also, Shepherd doesn’t mention any of the comments other NPR journalists have made, from the Totenberg death wish mentioned above to Gwen Ifill’s ill-advised attempt to mock Sarah Palin this week (turns out it was Ifill, not Palin, who got her history wrong. Whoops!). These frequent revelations that NPR journalists are, well, humans with opinions are simply not mentioned.

I put the Totenberg video of her views on “retributive justice” for Jesse Helms above. But in the last month, according to Stephen Hayes, in her regular appearances on “Inside Washington,” she has: “criticized a ruling of the Roberts Court as scandalous; claimed that Michelle Obama gives people ‘warm and fuzzy’ feelings; called Bill Clinton ‘the most gifted politician I’ve ever seen;’ and lamented that the Democratic Party is diverse enough to include moderates that want to extend all Bush tax cuts.”

But somehow we’re supposed to believe that Juan Williams sharing his views is a threat to democracy. No really:

NPR, like any mainstream news outlet, expects its journalists to be thoughtful and measured in everything they say. What Williams said was deeply offensive to Muslims and inflamed, rather than contributing positively, to an important debate about the role of Muslims in America.

Williams was doing the kind of stereotyping in a public platform that is dangerous to a democracy. It puts people in categories, as types — not as individuals with much in common despite their differences.

NPR journalists aren’t thoughtful and measured in everything they say. Only for some one of them is the accusation of such a firing offense. But that’s a really idiotic measure anyway. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone. I love NPR and listen to it frequently. I’m glad that NPR journalists aren’t measured in everything they say.

But more than that, Williams was doing nothing like what Shepherd accuses him of. He was admitting to a personal fear in order to talk about the importance of *not* being bigoted.

Shepherd says that Williams’ personal admission of something felt by millions of Americans is “dangerous to a democracy.” I think we’re quickly seeing that Americans see NPR’s hasty action as more deserving of that claim.

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  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    I’m very confused by Schiller’s distinction between “analysis” and “opinion.” Williams started at NPR as host of Talk of the Nation, which is a call-in show, not a hard news program. On Weekend Edition, host Scott Simon regularly offers a personal essay in the middle of the program (which I enjoy, BTW). Longtime newscaster Carl Kassel also appears on the weekly satire/comedy show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. She seems to be creating a distinction that doesn’t exist in other parts of the NPR universe.

    As far as I know, the person at NPR with the most similar role to Williams is Cokie Roberts, who is also a “senior news analyst” for NPR but appears as a commentator on ABC News. It would be interesting to ask how her position with ABC is substantially difference from Williams’ position with Fox.

  • Jeffrey

    Alicia Shepard doesn’t need to mention Gwenn Ifill because Ifill is not an NPR employee; she works for PBS. Completely different companies. I also don’t think Shepard needs to explain a decision (or non-decision) that is 15-years old and an likely two or three news directors ago.

    I don’t think the issue is, necessarily, NPR staff appearing on other networks to commentate. In addition to Roberts at ABC, Fox employs Mara Liasson and Michele Norris appears on Meet the Press and Chris Matthews. The difference is the substance of those comments. Despite Hayes’ hyperventilating, Totenberg’s comments don’t rise to the level of concern Williams’ history of commentating (and his recent comments) do at Fox.

  • http://www.exceptionalmarriages.com Greg Popcak

    Seen in context, this strikes me as remarkably similar to the Shirley Sherrod debacle. You may recall she was fired from the USDA for a speech that was intended to communicate that people need to get past their automatic racist reactions but, taken out of context, sounded like she was refusing to help a man because he was white.

    In the same way, Williams confessed an emotional reaction, but goes on to say that Muslims need to be protected from the sort of emotional reactions he had.

    Once clearer minds prevailed, Sherrod was offered her job back with an apology. One wonders if there are any such clear minds in NPR’s admin.

  • Suzanne

    I think Williams shouldn’t have been fired for this; I agree that his entire comment taken in context shows prejudice (which most of us share) but not bigotry. It was in fact very reminiscent of Jesse Jackson’s remarks several years ago.

    I do think NPR has the right to say to its commentators that appearing on certain shows hurts the brand and that they should be made to choose (this would apply to Mara Liasson as well).

    In the same way, if Shepard Smith were making regular visits to Rachel Maddow’s show, Fox would have the right to say “Choose: Us or her.”

    I would say, since this is the second time we’ve been treated to this recording of Nina Totenberg’s offensive remark about Helms, I’m wondering if anybody knows where to find a longer version of it.

    This slickly produced 18-second snippet is awfully Sherrodian itself. Given how little we hear, it’s entirely possible that Totenberg may have immediately backed off of it, or apologized, but since the entire right-wing blogosphere is using the same abbreviated version, it’s impossible to tell.

  • Julia

    In the same way, if Shepard Smith were making regular visits to Rachel Maddow’s show, Fox would have the right to say “Choose: Us or her.”

    That may be. FOX and MSNBC are quite the rivals and opine about each other to a fare-thee-well.

    However, as far as I know, FOX isn’t in the habit of trashing NPR. So what’s the justification for not wanting Williams to be on FOX, especially if other NPR folks appear on ABC and FOX to give their take on the news?

    It appears to be the pressure brought to bear on NPR by CAIR.

    Before Williams was fired, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said such commentary from a journalist about other racial, ethnic or religious minority groups would not be tolerated.

    “NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.

    Later Wednesday, NPR issued a statement saying Williams’ remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

    Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39780902

  • northcoast

    Unless this saga is about the way that matters connected to Islam are handled in the media and in public discourse, there doesn’t seem to be much of a religion context. I would challenge the raison d’etre for a taxpayer funded media outlet regardless of the way they handled the news or their personnel. Certainly there is much to be said about political correctness and fear in the reporting of news involving Islam, but that doesn’t seem to be the dominant factor here.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The issue is a religious one because Williams was fired for what he honestly felt about some Moslems in Islamic garb on a plane after 9-11.

    In the firestorm over this both the Times (and their Boston Globe, among others) are masterfully downplaying what might be an even greater media scandal. George Soros, the master puppeteer of all things liberal and Democrat (mostly ignored or forgotten is the fact he coerced the Dems to back out of a Fox sponsored debate during the Dem pres. primaries) has just given a million dollars to NPR to hire 100 reporters (of his choosing????)

    Only Howard Kurtz (formerly the WaPo’s media specialist) in the internet Daily Beast has so far tied all this together as a serious problem.

    Was Williams fired for his comments to do with a religion? (As NPR claims)

    Or was it a sacrificial offering to who is now NPR’s lead Angel and notorious Fox hater?

    All this also clearly shows that topic religion can’t be easily and cleanly separated from secular issues. There is almost always some overlap.

  • SB

    @Sally, #6:
    It’s a very sad state of affairs for discourse when any diversity of opinion is immediately labeled “hate” and dismissed as such. You’re doing precisely what you accuse Fox News of doing: slandering and directing a hateful attitude toward those with whom you disagree. I’m no fan of Fox News, I think they’re often unreflectively biased toward the Right, but turning a blind eye to NPR’s Leftward bias in evidence in this post while attacking the opposite end of the spectrum as hate speech is completely inconsistent.

    What I find most distressing is that most of the people with whom I interact on a daily basis (as an academic) share this bias: NPR, NYT, and even HuffPo are impeccable paragons of journalistic virtue in all things, especially when they touch on religion, while nothing Fox News ever says is ever right. “NPR has news standards, common to most real journalistic organizations…” Hmm. “No true Scotsman…”

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Oh my, who equated NPR and MSNBC?

    Anyone want to stay with that analogy? That’s the essence of years of conservative complaints about NPR.

  • toujoursdan

    Where was all this fauxrage when Octavia Nasr, Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Eason Jordan, Peter Arnett, Phil Donahue, Ashleigh Banfield, Bill Maher, Ward Churchill, Chas Freeman, Van Jones were fired for making opinion based comments against the Iraq War, saying European Jews should go back to Europe, saying Jews owning the media and for a throwaway comment expressing “respect” for a Hezbollah leader? They are either all fireable offences or none are.

    Williams made a stupid remark. The 9/11 hijackers, Shoebomber, London bombers, Detroit bomber and all the rest wore Western clothes so people wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Terrorists aren’t stupid enough to dress too Muslim-ey.

    Sherrod’s comment expressed that she felt bigotry and realized it was wrong. Williams didn’t say his bigotry was wrong (he has even defended it since) but that they should be protected from it. That’s not the same thing.

    Finally, Jesse Helms wasn’t an innocent conservative attacked by Nina for ideological reasons.

    He was someone who actively refused to acknowledge that you could get HIV from anything other than “sodomy” (who presumably deserve to die.)

    When Ryan White, a 9 year old haemophilliac who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion, died, his parents came to lobby Congress to pass the Ryan White Care Act. Jesse refused to meet with them and wouldn’t even speak them as they shared an elevator. He fillibustered and voted against the Ryan White Care Act and any other HIV research. Her point was that it would be divine retribution for him to suffer what he caused millions around the world to suffer from due to his obstruction.

    Let’s face it. Making bigoted and fear based comments about Muslims is acceptable. Making bigoted or fear based comments about Jews or Fox News or the Drudge report isn’t. There is a double standard and this is hypocritical.

  • Julia

    what he caused millions around the world to suffer from due to his obstruction.

    I don’t think Holmes successfully blocked any legislation concerning AIDS. As far as I recall, the Ryan White Care Act did pass.

    - – - -
    Juan Williams didn’t make comments about Muslims. He was honestly stating his automatic reactions and that Muslims needed to be protected from people acting on similar automatic reactions. It doesn’t help to ignore those facts.

    - – - – - –

    I didn’t equate NPR and MSNBC. I said the situations were different. There may be lots of criticisms of NPR among conservatives, but I’ve not heard much of it on FOX until the Willliams case occurred. [Maybe they held back out of deference to Juan and Mara] On the other hand, there’s outright gleeful bomb-throwing between MSNBC & FOX – from both sides.

  • toujoursdan

    It’s Helms, not Holmes. He lobbied against it, tied it up in committees and filibustered against that legislation. Yes. The Ryan White Act passed, but because of his (and others) opposition, aid for people with HIV was delayed for many years, leading to suffering and death.

    Saying that Muslims who look Muslim must care more about their religion than this country is bigotry by definition. He’s attributing negative characteristics to a group of people based on their appearance, rather than their actions. That is the fact you’re ignoring.

    Substitute Blacks and see how it reads: “Black people who dress like Black people (ghetto/gang attire) make me uncomfortable. They care more about their race than America.” It’s bigoted. Plain and simple. Either people are judged by their actions or they’re judged by their appearance.

    And again, why the double standard. Why would one advocate firing people who said that someone who inflicted pain on others should get a taste of his own medicine, questioned the Iraq War (before it became acceptable), expressed that Jews born in Europe should go back, said that Jews control the media okay, firing someone who said that Muslims who look too Muslim are scary, not okay? You can’t have it both ways.

  • Evanston2

    Toujoursdan (#10): The real “double standard” is taxpayer funding of NPR (and PBS, for that matter). If you don’t like Drudge, Fox, etc. you’re free to stop reading or listening or watching, and to stop buying products from their sponsors. I have no such freedom regarding Ms. Totenberg, Ms. Schiller, and their compadres. I am forced to pay, directly and indirectly (far more than the 2% figure cited by the liberal establishment) for NPR. I’m not sure what Tmatt means (#9) by “the essence of conservative complaints about NPR.” That could use some clarification…but when Greg Popcak (#3) likens the Williams and Sherrod incidents, he (accidentally?) hits the essence — that both speakers were taxpayer supported. I respect the fact that this blog is focused on religion, and Mollie does an outstanding job in this regard. Still, am I the only one who finds that devotees to ‘separation of church and state’ suddenly fall silent when I am forced to subsidize their viewpoint? Why should I have to pay for Mollie’s love of NPR? Jeffrey (#2) celebrated the “growing conversation” on gay issues here on this site a few weeks ago, but his “level of concern” is evidently the ruling factor regarding what is right or wrong, journalistically. Please, let my people go. Please, stop YOUR double standards. Stop making me pay for your ‘beautiful music’ and Garrison Keillor and All (politically correct) Things Considered. Air America may have stood a chance if NPR didn’t stand in its way. Stop imposing your views of what constitutes proper rage (vs. what Dan calls “fauxrage”), compete for market share (like conservatives must do) and get your hands out of my pocket.

  • Chris

    What is racism? Is it an irrational, visceral feeling that you act upon? Or is it also a visceral feeling that you do not act on, and must recognize and control so that you do not act on it? Are the only non-racists those who have no such feelings at all? Perhaps we should find a way to discuss these questions–but I think it might involve a discussion of what constitutes sin, which requires that we “get religion”.

  • PM

    Interesting – when someone points out the glaring double standard (conservatives called for the firings of Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr, etc…., yet when pretty much the same thing happens to Juan Williams, suddenly they become very concerned with the freedom of the press), the response is to attack NPR’s very existence as a partially taxpayer-funded institution.

    Which I suspect was the motive all along. Juan said that NPR was “looking for a reason” to fire him. I think that the conservative media was looking for a reason to go after NPR. This is just a flimsy pretext.

    I think there’s an extremely valid question about whether journalists should be fired for expressing personal opinions publically. But the double standard is very troubling.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    As a point of personal privilege, I am spiking all comments that call Williams a “bigot.” I do not see how one can read both halves of his comment and believe that.

    We really don’t like name calling here, on the left or the right.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    PM,

    I’m not saying that the firings of these other individuals isn’t worth putting into the mix — and I linked to Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic doing just that (in yesterday’s post on the matter).

    However, there are differences here beyond the simple “journalists getting fired for saying things.”

    I think the Nasr situation actually is comparable while the Thomas situation was hard to defend from any angle.

    But in both of those cases, these women were working for a private company without taxpayer funding. That really is a key difference in my view. I think the “public” part of N”P”R really does factor in here.

    Also, though, the situation with Williams is that he was fired for doing something he didn’t actually do. Yes, he admitted a personal worry shared by (hundreds of?) millions of people. But he did so in order to talk about the importance of NOT being bigoted.

    To be fired for advocating an opinion that all Muslims should not be tarred by the actions of a few . . . is utterly bizarre.

    Now, if he had just stopped at the first comment — which he didn’t — it would probably be similar to the Nasr situation in more ways than one.

    Anyway, while I do think there is a larger lesson about how much “analysts” are allowed to analyze . . . I’m not sure how far the “double standard” approach works.

  • Chris

    What is the difference between an opinion and a feeling? Didn’t Juan express his feeling. I thought that feelings were neither good or bad, and that feelings were not to be judged. Actions are different, but he just expressed a feeling. This action by NPR is very dangerous to the health of our society. Just ask Eric Holder!

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    Just as a point of information about Nina’s comment: She didn’t just wish that Sen. Helms should die of aids (something some commentators here appear to think is defensible based on his morals and politics), but that one of his grandchildren also die of it, something she specifically linked to God’s “retributive justice.”

    Nice.

  • Jeffrey

    “That really is a key difference in my view. I think the “public” part of N”P”R really does factor in here.”

    Explain this, please. NPR receives about 2% of its funding from the government. SO beyond the conservative/libertarian handwringing over government funding, what is it about that 2% funding for the government that makes NPR’s decisions different from CNNs?

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Yesterday, All Things Considered had a couple of media ethics experts weigh in on the matter:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130757465

    Overall, I thought it was a good discussion, and kudos to NPR for examining themselves. I was disappointed that one of the ethicists (Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute) didn’t seem to have listened to Williams’ full comments. They also repeatedly said that NPR’s ethical standards were clear, but never said what those standards were or how they were given to on-air personalities.

    Ryder also made this comment:

    I think in most newsrooms across the country, a statement like [Williams'] would have violated a similar standard that says journalists should not share their private opinions about controversial issues in a public forum.

    Is this a standard in “most newsrooms”? A standard for whom? Does this mean that every journalist who has come forward as pro-choice or pro-life should be immediately fired?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeffrey,

    Yes, NPR reports that only 2% of its funding comes from the feds. I believe that undercounts the actual aid that comes from the feds but the bottom line is that the courts tend not to care if the federal aid is 2% or 20% — when taxpayer funds are mingled with a corporation, the First Amendment issues are affected.

    If you’re a private magazine — like The Nation — you can hire or fire based on what your employees say away from the office. If you’re not a private media outlet but, instead, publicly funded as NPR is — do you have the same rights as a private media outlet? Are you accountable to the taxpayers who fund your operation? It’s just trickier.

    I think the best outcome would be for NPR to lose its federal subsidy and then fire people who don’t tow their ideological line or “ethical guidelines” or what not.

    Like you point out, 2% is chump change — they can easily do without it and then lose the headaches.

  • Jeffrey

    “when taxpayer funds are mingled with a corporation, the First Amendment issues are affected.”

    NPR is not a government actor. Juan Williams was not an employee, but a contractor. He was not–nor is any employee or contractor of NPR–a public employee in any sense of the word. So what First Amendment issues are affected that the courts’ have opined upon?

    NPR is like CNN. It isn’t really trickier, in terms of a news operation having ethical standards that coincide with traditional journalism standards and that are enforced. It could be argued that NPR, by its miniscule government funding, has a greater obligation not to contract with individuals who offend religious minorities.

  • Evanston2

    Jeffrey, Merely asserting that “NPR is not a government actor” does not make it so. I have a Master’s in government contracting (and am a CPCM, for those who know what that means) and while NPR is not an agency of the executive branch, it was established in 1967 by the government to act as a corporation with a specific mission along the lines of USPS or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The status of individual employees (correct, they’re not civil servants) or contractors is irrelevant: as a corporate entity NPR leverages its Federal government support and is also answerable to Congress.
    You’re in safer territory to assert that in its journalistic mission, NPR is not a propaganda wing of the government. But due to its charter , it is not “like CNN” and its ethical standards are indeed “trickier” — as you will soon find out. Regarding the “miniscule government funding” (or as NPR CEO Vivian Schiller told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, any direct government link is “laughable”) then you ought to welcome the end of such funding. Let NPR free itself! The upcoming Congress would gladly change its status if it would agree to receive zero Federal funding (whether directly or indirectly from ‘member stations’ that are Federally funded). Free, free, at last you can be free!

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Yes, NPR reports that only 2% of its funding comes from the feds.

    That doesn’t include the funding given to NPR’s member stations by federal, state, and local governments. Further, many of those member stations are connected to public universities and other publicly funded institutions (like libraries). I don’t know how much of influence Huckabee, Gingrich, et al. will have on Vivian Schiller, but I bet that member stations (especially in more conservative areas) are trying to ensure that the political fallout ends ASAP. Whether or not NPR is ethically accountable to taxpayers for its actions here, local stations might find themselves politically accountable to state and local governments looking to make cuts.

    I just noticed that one of the top headlines at my local station right now is “From the NPR Ombudsman: NPR’s Firing of Juan Williams Was Poorly Handled” (right below a pledge request button). Is this an attempt to distance themselves from the national corporation?

  • Evanston2

    Thanks Mike (#25). While the 2% lie is obvious to anyone who cares to click around the web for a minute or two, the backpedaling is much more interesting. Blood is in the water, and we don’t yet know if Williams will be fished out and Schiller thrown to the sharks in his place. The Tolerant can be so fickle…if you imperil their government gravy connection then you’re Intolerable. Sorry, Viv…

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    New development this morning: NPR CEO Vivian Schiller issued an apology for how Williams was fired and provides some background. Also, related to the local member stations:

    Schiller said she was apologizing for the situation’s handling separately to NPR member stations, many of which were in the middle of fundraising drives last week.


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