NPR Exec Who Fired Juan Williams Resigns

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The woman who fired Juan Williams from NPR has resigned. Ellen Weiss, now-ex-senior vice president of news, gave Williams the axe via phone after he appeared on Fox News and said he was nervous whenever he saw people dressed in "Muslim garb" on an airplane. NPR just concluded an investigation of the incident, and though it found the firing was legal, Weiss is out and CEO Vivian Schiller will get no bonus for 2010, Mediaite's Mark Joyella reports.

NPR employer faced a great deal of criticism for the firing--especially from conservatives who said it was trying to stifle some opinions with liberal political correctness--including calls to cut its federal funding. Weiss had worked for NPR for 28 years. Williams landed on his feet, receiving a three-year contract with Fox News. Did Weiss deserve to be let go?

  • A New Ethics Code Is Needed, NPR's board of directors found, according to Fishbowl DC's Matt Dornic. It also needs new policies for journalists appearing in other media outlets, and to "encourage a broad range of viewpoints."
  • NPR Was Nicer to Weiss Than It Was to Me, Williams said on Fox News, according to NPR's Mark Memmott.
[Williams] accused the organization of trying to 'demean me and make me appear like a lunatic' when he was dismissed, said that NPR--in its statement about Weiss--treated her far better than he was treated, and said that 'the real story is that you can't go around treating people like trash.' Williams compared Schiller's statement about Weiss to propaganda issues by Pravda."
  • Collateral Damage, The Daily Beast notes. "It looks like Juan Williams took NPR’s senior vice president of news, Ellen Weiss, down with him."
  • Watch NPR Spin  NPR's spokesman told Foster that the investigation and Weiss' resignation were "two distinct pieces of news." Oh really? "I suppose that is ontologically true," National Review's Daniel Foster says. "But are we really meant to believe that the Weiss resignation isn’t related to the conclusion of the review? Weiss fired Williams, and in a release detailing the conclusions of an internal review into that event, in the course of describing disciplinary actions taken in light of it, Weiss’s resignation after nearly 30 years of employment is matter-of-factly announced."
The fact that she fired him over the phone was a mistake. But it seems like a mistake rather minor to end a career over. If NPR itself really felt that she handled it that poorly, it should have asked her to resign when the incident happened, not months later. And if it wanted to wait for the results of the independent review, then one would have assumed that that review would give some reason as to why she should resign. Maybe she just got sick of all the hate mail?
  • UPDATE: Weiss Had a Pretty Great Reputation, The Atlantic's James Fallows writes. "She has been at NPR since the early 1980s and has held most of the significant news-planning jobs there... It is common knowledge within NPR that when the network was deciding who should fill the senior news job four years ago, some 90% of news staff members, more than 100 people in all, signed a petition recommending that Weiss be chosen -- as she was. ... Is letting her go, for one episode (with Williams), any worse than letting Williams go for one comment on Fox News...? Structurally they might seem the same. But NPR's day-after explanation about Williams was that this was the culmination of years-long disagreements with him about his role as a Fox commentator. I know nothing first-hand about the merits of that explanation; but its essence is different from Weiss's situation, in which one instance of misjudgment appears to trump her reputation and achievement over the decades."

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