Response to Termination of Juan Williams Contract

| October 21, 2010 | 8 Comments

We’ve received over 30 calls and emails today (Thursday) related to the termination of Juan Williams contract with NPR. Nearly all the comments have been critical of the NPR action. Williams has subsequently, according to the LA Times, signed a multi-million dollar contract to work with Fox News.

NPR is an independent news organization and WOSU is one of its many affiliates around the country, but stations were not part of this decision. WOSU purchases NPR programming such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, but we also pay for programs from other national distributors such as Public Radio International and BBC. We don’t take a stand either way on this NPR action, but consider it a NPR personnel issue. However, I don’t believe its fair to judge NPR’s action on this single event, without knowing the history and context of other issues that may be related to his lengthy tenure at NPR. You might be interested in an assessment of the situation from NPR’s Ombudsman, who has criticized NPR for how they handled this, but also provides some important perspective.

I first met Juan Williams in the late ’80s when I was involved in one of his TV projects with WETA focused on how the media covered the civil rights movement. I did several interviews for the project, which Juan wrote and hosted. Three years ago, Juan came to Columbus to speak on the OSU campus and also joined supporters of WOSU to discuss the state of journalism and more. He was very generous with his time and we appreciated his support of WOSU. I’ve always enjoyed his news analyst work at NPR, particularly during Morning Edition. He will be missed.

This is the latest information release from NPR leadership sent to stations across the country :
Late Wednesday evening we gave Juan Williams notice that we’ve terminated his contract as a Senior News Analyst for NPR News. We didn’t make this decision lightly or without regret. Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years.

However, his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday violated our ethics guidelines. Unfortunately, this has occurred several times in other media. Our decision to end our contractual relationship with Juan has come after repeated conversations and warnings about some of his public comments. This was a difficult, but principled decision.

We’ve been contacted by listeners who have passionately agreed with our decision, as well as those who have disagreed with it, with equal conviction. We hear you both and respect your perspectives. At the same time, we believe that the public is better served by NPR holding firm to the values and standards that have guided us for many years.

As some listeners have also asked for more details about our funding, you can find a detailed overview of our funding on our website in our “About” section: Of note, and as is explained in that site, NPR, Inc. has received no direct operating support from the federal government since 1983.

I recognize that this decision has sparked a strong debate in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and that you have a firm position on the matter. While we stand by our policy, we also regret that we were compelled to take the actions that we did.

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Category: WOSU General

  • Marcus

    Kudos to NPR for taking a stand based on principle! Clearly NPR and Juan Williams have different values and standards; as such, NPR is not obligated to retain his employment. Continue to uphold those values; the airwaves of our country will be the better for it.

  • Will Kernen

    NPR’s action is a travesty and this response from OSU is lame.
    The stated reason for the termination is an afront to the First Amendment by an organization which should deem it holy. Apparently free speech is not one of NPR’s “values.”
    I will be contacting my Federal representatives to oppose future funding for public television and radio, and boycotting both until a sincere apology is issued and the idiot who fired Mr. Williams is fired instead.

  • Dianne Fout

    NPR is bias and selective. And you know that. The termination of Mr Williams is just one example.

  • Cathleen Dahlstrand

    This country is bending over backwards in an attempt at political correctness, which explains why the world appears upside down to most of us now. The firing of Juan Williams was uncalled for and he should be reinstated with an apology immediately. I agree that federal funding to public radio and television should be reconsidered in light of what has happened. I know that I am withdrawing my support.

  • Michael Ryan

    Well my comment is that the loss of Juan Williams is no big loss. His fans can go to Faux News, where he will continue to play the liberal who always tells Bill O’Reilly in the end of the fixed wrestling match that he (bill) is right. There is of course no first amendment issue here. Juan Williams’s comments about muslims call to mind comments that have been made about “dirty” Irish, Jews, etc, etc (fill in your “other” here) throughout our nation’s history and of course the reason so few are shocked by them is that our discouse is filled with similar stuff. Intersting that a blck journalist is the one this time. The day had to come. Sort of like the fact that the modern KKK will accept Italinas as members.

  • Ellen Therese

    If NPR employees are not allowed to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally in Washington DC because it undermines their journalistic credibillity, then they certainly should not be able to appear on incendiary opinion shows like the O’Reilly Factor. I for one am thrilled that NPR is holding the line between journalism and editorialism.

  • Bobbi Dahms

    I still haven’t heard what “journalistic standards” at NPR that Juan Williams broke. What about Nina Tottenberg and Cokie Roberts? They gave their opinions, far more disturbing than anything Juan said. And, they are still working at NPR. It has become glaringly apparent to even the most casual observer that NPR is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. I hope they will get, through loss of federal funding and donations, what they have brought upon themselves.

  • Rebecca Coleman

    “I recognize that this decision has sparked a strong debate in the blogosphere and elsewhere, and that you have a firm position on the matter. While we stand by our policy, we also regret that we were compelled to take the actions that we did.”

    I regret that my firm position is to not donate my time or money to NPR and its OSU affiliate any longer as I deeply regret that NPR (as a whole) was compelled to take the actions it did in shutting down Juan Williams while allowing others to continue giving their opinions and feelings on NPR-approved networks.