Juan Williams on NPR Firing: I'm Not a Bigot

NPR CEO: “This isn't the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan's public comments.”

Juan Williams,the longtime NPR analyst whose contract was terminated on Wednesday over comments he made about Muslims to Bill O'Reilly on Fox News earlier in the week, appeared twice on the cable network on Thursday.

The first time, on "Fox and Friends," he did not address the controversy. The second time, on "Happening Now," he did.

Here's what Williams said, via a Fox News transcript:

Wednesday afternoon I got a message on my cell phone from Ellen Weiss who's the head of news at NPR asking me to call. When I called back, she said, "What did you say? What did you mean to say?" and I said, "I said what I meant to say which is that it's an honest experience that when I'm in an airport and I see people who are in Muslim garb who identify themselves forth and foremost as Muslims, I do a double take. I have a moment of anxiety or fear given what happened on 9/11. That's just the reality. And, she went on to say that crosses the line and I said what line is that? And she went on to somehow suggest that I had made a bigoted statement. I said that's not a bigoted statement.

See Previous: Post-Sanchez, NPR Fires Juan Williams Over Muslim Comments

I, in fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O'Reilly, said that we have, as Americans, an obligation to be careful to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in the country, and to make sure that we do not have any outbreak of bigotry. But that there is a reality you cannot ignore what happened on 9/11. You cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism and you can't ignore what has been recently said in court which this is the first job of blood in the Muslim war on America. And, then she said, 'This has been decided.' I don't even get a chance to come in and we do this eye ball to eye ball, person to person, we have a conversation. I've been there for more than 10 years. We don't have that chance to have a conversation about this? And she said, 'There is nothing you can say that will change my mind. This has been decided above me and we're terminating your contract.'

O'Reilly called into "Happening Now" to defend Williams and call for “an immediate suspension of every taxpayer dollar” going to NPR.

UPDATE: In a memo to affiliates, NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller explained that  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," Schiller wrote, "Juan has continued to violate this principal."

Read also: Fox News Gives Fired NPR Reporter Juan Williams Fat New Contract

Here's the full memo, via L.A. Observed:

Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:05 PM Subject: Juan Williams

Dear AREPS,

Thank you for all of your varying feedback on the Juan Williams situation. Let me offer some further clarification about why we terminated his contract early.

First, 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.

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.

Thanks,

Vivian

Vivian Schiller
President & CEO, NPR