The NPR executive who sparked a public outrcy in October by firing journalist Juan Williamsis resigning from her job, the organization announced Thursday.
Ellen Weiss resigned as senior vice president for news on the same day that NPR’s board of directors completed its independent review of the dismissal of Williams. The directors recommended new internal procedures for personnel decisions and disciplinary action.
The board expressed confidence in CEO Vivian Schiller’s leadership but voted to forgo her 2010 bonus because of “concern over her role in the termination process.” Schiller drew criticism in November for saying Williams should keep his feelings about Muslims between him and “his psychiatrist or publicist” — comments that she later apologized for.
Williams, who is a Fox News contributor, cheered the announcement.
“It’s good news for NPR if they can get someone who is the keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy out of NPR,” he told Fox News, which gave Williams a bigger role in the wake of his firing.
“She had an executioner’s knife for anybody who didn’t abide by her way of thinking,” he said. “And I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that’s not open to not only different ways of thinking, but angry at the fact that I would even talk or be on Fox.”
Williams was fired by the nonprofit media organization because of remarks about his anxiety over seeing people dressed as Muslims on airplanes during an interview on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” The company said the remarks did not meet its “editorial standards.”
But the company came under withering criticism for the dismissal because it appeared rash and unfair since other NPR analysts have expressed their opinions with impunity.
According to Williams, Weiss fired him over the phone without giving him a chance to defend himself in person. Williams said she accused him of bigotry although he was arguing against rash judgments about people of faith.
“She felt that there was no place for me because I crossed the lines of her journalistic standard,” he said. “I think what I crossed was her politically correct red line in the sand.”
If one were to listen to Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, and those in the mainstream media and their compadres in Washington, one would be lead to believe that “the only partisan news division is the one that exists on Fox News.”
On a recent episode of Late Night, David Letterman pined for the old days of journalism when broadcasters didn’t cheer on one side over another. He said this at the tail end of an interview with current NBC anchor Brian Williams. I assume Letterman was speaking of the likes of Cronkite, Rather, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings and the “old days” of broadcasting.
If anyone listened to these anchors following their “old days” of journalism, they would know that each of these men—save Jennings—expressed political beliefs overwhelmingly liberal in nature. Jennings, of course, didn’t have much of a post-career, but he gave the most glaring example of bias on a broadcast immediately following the 1994 Republican takeover of the House of Congress. On this broadcast, Jennings led with the statement: “Voters had a temper tantrum.” In other words, voters couldn’t take to the Democrat agenda in the manner they were supposed to, and they irrationally voted against the Democrats as a reaction.
When one talks of bias in the media, they are not suggesting that anchors wear an emblazoned ‘D’ on their chest. Few would suggest that network anchors ever sat on the sidelines of an election and screamed: “give me a ‘D’, give me an ‘E’, give me an ‘M’,” and…you get the idea. When good people deny that there is a bias in the media, I think that they are expecting the appearance of bias to be that obvious. MSNBC aside, you’re not going to see that from journalists. They at least want to appear non-partisan. They at least want to appear that they are covering the news in a straight fashion.
True bias, as Thomas Sowell alludes, occurs in the backrooms. True bias occurs in the editing room. True bias occurs in an editor, or an anchor, selecting one story over another. True bias occurs when an interviewer asks a Democrat: “How do the Democrats get back in power?” as they do, ad nauseum, after Democrats are defeated. Or when they lead with a story: “Is the Republican party over?” as they do, ad nauseum, after Republicans are defeated. Or when Republicans win, and they lead with the story: “Will Republicans compromise?” Or when Democrats win, and they lead with the story: “Will the Republicans attempt to stop Democrats?” or “is the Republican party the party of no!?”
I think that the Fox News is biased mantra that the media speaks about on a daily basis was able to take hold in the populace—Goebbels propaganda aside—based on pure numbers. On any given panel, on one of the major networks, Americans grew accustomed to seeing two liberals for every conservative. When Fox News came along and had the audacity to present a 50/50 panel, Americans were a little taken aback. We weren’t used to seeing equal representation. We weren’t used to seeing negative news stories about Republicans and Democrats, until Fox News began presenting the news in that manner.
Expect the ‘Fox News is biased’ mantra to grow exponentially in the wake of this NPR story. Expect Daschle’s son to step forward again and ask Fox News for some form of transparency. Expect some Republican In Name Only, like a Rockefeller, to step forward and ask for bipartisanship in the wake of this story. Expect a frothing frenzy to develop in this aftermath, but it will be nothing compared to the escapade that could develop if Comcast ever completes a buyout of NBC, and they attempt to revamp MSNBC to a more “news-oriented” broadcaster. That could make the whole North versus South thing look like a school yard tussle over chocolate mousse.