NPR CEO Apologizes For 'Psychiatrist' Remark
(Related note at 9:45 p.m. ET: Our latest post on the NPR/Juan Williams story is here.)
Update at 3:30 p.m. ET. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller just released this statement:
"I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark."
That follows, as you'll see below, her comment earlier today that now-former NPR news analyst Juan Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist."
Our original post:
Fired NPR news analyst Juan Williams should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist," the network's CEO told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club earlier today.
The Associated Press adds that:
Schiller said Williams' firing is not a reflection of his comments (on Fox News Channel) that he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane. She said she has no problem with people taking controversial positions, but that such opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts. Williams, Schiller said, is a news analyst, not a commentator or columnist.
And, she said the firing came after "several cases'' of Williams veering from journalistic ethics.
Also today, in an e-mail sent to NPR member stations (we left any typos "as is"), Schiller wrote that:
"A critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview -- not our reporters and analysts.
"Second, this isn't the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan's public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal.
"Third, these specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR’s ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts): 'In appearing on TV or other media. ... NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows ... that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”
"More fundamentally, 'In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.'
"Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so."
As we reported earlier, Williams was on Fox again today. He said his words on Monday's The O'Reilly Factor were not bigoted. He'll be back on O'Reilly tonight (8 p.m. ET on Fox News Channel).
The termination of Williams' contract with NPR has been condemned by many from the conservative side of the political aisle, including Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.
Related entry at 3 p.m. ET. NPR Ombudsman: Williams Should Have Been Given Choice:
Rather than terminating news analyst Juan Williams' contract, "probably the better thing for NPR to have done is to have said 'Juan the situation is not working,' " NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard just said on Talk of the Nation.
Then, she continued, Williams could have been given a choice: If he wanted to stay at NPR, he would have to stop doing commentary on Fox News Channel. Or, if he preferred to continue with Fox, he and NPR could part ways.
We noted earlier that Alicia has previously written about the perceived conflicts between Williams' roles at NPR and Fox. She's planning to publish a post about his termination within the hour.