Juan Williams, a very well known news analyst for liberal news station NPR, was fired after commenting that seeing flight passengers wearing Muslim attire on planes made him nervous. The firing has caused much debate, as many are questioning whether or not it was fair of NPR to fire him for this. Following his firing, the CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, said that Williams’ feelings about seeing plane passengers wearing Muslim garb is an issue that he should “discuss with his psychiatrist”. This comment caused even more debate, as it was seen as unnecessary by some to deride him in this matter, on top of firing him, for a comment that many people saw as being harmless. Schiller released an apology after making this statement. Immediately following his firing, Williams signed a multi-year deal with competitors, Fox News. The questions that can be asked from a public relations perspective regarding this issue are what this situation means for NPR, for Juan Williams, and for Fox news.
With regards to Juan Williams and his comment, I do not feel that it was a comment worthy of firing, but do feel that he could have done a better job at avoiding this type of miscommunication. Though his comment may have seemed harmless to many, others may see it as anti-Muslim, which could harm his image as an objective news analyst.
With regards to NPR, I feel that the CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, has brought bad publicity to NPR by allowing both the firing and the malicious comments. Following her derogatory comment towards Williams, various Fox news analysts fought back, one stating that she was a “pinhead”, and another that she was “not smart enough to run a news station”. Another Fox News contributor even stated that the way that NPR fired Williams was “vulgar and pitiful” . It is speculated that the real reason for Williams’ firing was because of his role as a Fox news contributor, which NPR did not necessarily approve of. By throwing a malicious comment into the situation, Schiller made the situation seem more personal and has made NPR look bad. I think this is a situation that will require NPR’s public relations team to do a lot of image repair.