I haven’t paid much attention to the actions occurring at NPR (National Public Radio) in the last day or so by its board as a consequence of an alleged review of the firing of Juan Williams as a commentator for the organization. Generally, these issues—firings, resignations, suspensions, whatever—are politically motivated cesspools of internal activity in which little in the way of accurate or honest information is allowed to see the light of day.
But Juan Williams holds a special place for me and my book so when I happened to find a link to this article, NPR exec who fired Juan Williams follows him out the door on Powerline, http://www.powerlineblog.com, I read it and decided to offer a comment.
Those familiar with my book, The Good, The Bad and The Difference, know that Juan Williams wrote a glowing testimonial for it and it appears on the front cover. Juan wrote:
“With movies, music, the Internet and TV constantly blasting at our children—here comes the good news. Michael Sabbeth’s book, The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values is a great guide to essential conversations parents need to have with their children about being critical, independent thinkers and good people.”
Juan Williams, Commentator for National Public Radio and FOX News
I received the printed books at my home. I read the cover and caressed the pages. I was proud to have Juan’s endorsement. I had met Juan electronically, or virtually, as they say these days. He was introduced to me through email by my daughter who works for Fox News in New York City. Juan is a frequent guest on one Fox program or another.
I asked Juan if he would be willing to read a few sections of my manuscript as it then existed. He said yes. He read about a quarter of the book. He liked the material. I was honored beyond description.
Juan is a successful writer and an author of several acclaimed books.
His affirmation of my work was, in large measure, a dream come true. He gets hit on all the time by people wanting his endorsement and to gain legitimacy through his accolades. That Juan was willing to affirm my work was transcendent. Heady stuff, indeed!
Juan is considered a ‘liberal,’ whatever that means these days, but has earned the respect of those that consider themselves ‘conservatives,’ again, whatever that means. I was honored to have Juan’s testimonial and I placed it on my book’s cover. I did not consider his endorsement as a political statement. My book has no agenda, political or otherwise, other than to help parents talk to their children about serious issues of moral significance. No more; no less.
My book had been published and in print only five days before Juan was summarily fired by NPR. Five days, and already there was, technically, an inaccuracy in my book’s text—the cover information was now wrong!! Juan was no longer a commentator for NPR. Woe is me, I feared.
The Powerline statement said, in part:
NPR announces that an “independent review” of its firing of Juan Williams has been completed and that its Board has taken certain actions in response to the findings of that review. These actions include “appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination” of Williams.
One manager involved in the termination is Vivian Schiller, the CEO. NPR says in its announcement that the Board is “concerned” about her role in the sacking of Williams and that she will receive no bonus for 2010.
The manager who actually fired Williams is Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news. NPR says in the same announcement that she has “resigned.”
Now, I didn’t just come out of the cotton fields, as it were, and it seemed nonsensical that the denial of a bonus would be punishment for a firing that had been deemed somehow suspect. Moreover, it seemed highly suspicious that the person that actually was the public face of the firing would happen to resign, and do so at the time of this so-called review.
Of course, resignations mean a lot of different things these days, and no insight was given regarding pay-offs, new job placements, severance packages and other little financial trinkets used by companies to soften the blow in reality regarding what is allowed to be broadcast publicly.
In any event, it is evident that NRP did not apologize to Juan Williams for firing him; did not offer to re-instate him as a commentator and has made no public acknowledgment that its treatment of him was anything other than reprehensible.
The Powerline article continued:
Williams, for his part, seems to welcome the departure of Weiss. He says she was a symbol of the “very ingrown, incestuous culture” at NPR, and that her departure is “good news for NPR and people who care about the news.”
I, for one, am pleased that Fox News had the integrity and honor to give Juan employment after the utter shabby treatment he received from those who are allegedly his ideological allies. Fox showed honor and tolerance. NPR did not.