Vivian Schiller, President and CEO of NPR, has defended the agency’s decision to terminate the contract of news analyst Juan Williams after comments the analyst made on The O’Reilly Factor on FoxNews.
Schiller stated that the analyst’s comments on the show veered from news analysis into opinion and this was not the first time the problem had occurred. She was very clear that Williams was paid by NPR to give a perspective on the news and not his opinion as he was not a columnist or commentator.
Williams, however, described the termination of his contract as a ‘chilling assault on free speech’ and said the agency had issues with the fact that he appeared on Fox at all. In a posting on the FoxNews website, Williams defended his comments and said NPR had been looking for a reason to remove him due to his consistent appearances on FoxNews.
Schiller rebutted the issue by stating that the problem was not necessarily with Williams’ appearance on the other network, but instead on their own journalistic rules of ethics. NPR expects anyone that appears on air for them to adhere to those rules regardless of which venue they are appearing on. According to Schiller, Williams had strayed previously and was asked not to do so again.
Schiller also refuted the claim that NPR does not allow controversial opinions by pointing out that the agency has them quite often. She did point out that they tend to come from subjects of interviews and not from their own reporters and analysts.
NPR says that the reason they did not act on these violations sooner was that the agency likes to give a second chance and use the lesson as a learning experience. However, they felt the most recent comments crossed the line.
Williams’ contract was terminated by NPR Wednesday after he had made an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor. During that appearance Williams admitted that when on a plane and seeing people in traditional Muslim ‘garb’ he felt nervous and worried.
Williams has since defended his statements as being non-bigoted and just an honest perception from someone who remembers the attacks on America. NPR has stated that the comment itself is not the problem but instead it is the fact that as a news analyst Williams should not be offering opinion.
FoxNews Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes announced that Williams has now signed a new, expanded, multi-year deal with the organization. The deal has been reported to be a 3 year, $2 million deal that includes more appearances on the network as well as column on the website.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is calling for Congress to stop funding to NPR when it reconvenes next year. He has also stated that he will no longer interview with them as they practice censorship.
Schiller says that the funding in question makes up less than 2 percent of the agency’s budget.