This was so predictable, which is why I wrote it was going to happen. But the plot has certainly thickened.
Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes handed Williams a new three-year contract Thursday morning, in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary, the Tribune Washington Bureau has learned. The Fox News contributor will now appear exclusively and more frequently on the cable news network and have a regular column on FoxNews.com. – In wake of NPR controversy, Fox News gives Juan Williams an expanded role
It didn’t take long for NPR’s CEO to step in it, saying Williams should keep his comments about Muslims between himself, “his psychiatrist or his publicist.” She wasn’t fired for her remarks, but she did apologize.
Juan Williams has written his story on the whole crescendo of events that led to his firing. It’s a must read to understand the whole story. However, the title of Williams’ piece, “I was fired for telling the truth,” is a liberal interpretation of reality. Plain and simple, he was fired for violating the terms of his contract, which I’ll get to in a second.
NPR is in full damage control, but not backing down. From AJC, an interview with NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller:
A: Let’s state a couple of facts. Juan is not an employee of NPR. He’s an independent contractor. He’s not NPR staff. He’s an NPR analyst. We have a contract with him for analyst opinions to provide news analysis. He is not a columnist or commentator. He also has an on-going relationship with Fox News. Mara Liasson is also on Fox News and is a full-time staffer. We accept that’s a whole other issue. However, we expect our journalists, whether they are news analysts or reporters to behave like journalists.
Q: So did Juan really get fired over just those Muslim comments? [He said he was uncomfortable with Muslims dressed in traditional garb on airplanes during a Fox News telecast yesterday.]
A: There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line. He famously said last year something about Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael. [The quote on Fox News early last year: "Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going" and that she'll be an "albatross" for President Obama.]. This isn’t a case of one strike and you’re out.
Ms. Schiller goes on to state that Williams is an independent contractor, which is much looser arrangment than being an employee. It also means you can be fired for just about any reason at all, especially if management had warned you before or if you’d collided with the ethics or morals clause.
As for Mara Liasson, Schiller says in the interview that “she behaves as a journalist” on Fox, so there’s not conflict with her role with NPR. Full stop. Liasson is on the Fox News Sunday panel, which is an opinion driven portion at the end of the show. It is not a news oriented section with any journalism required. That’s why Liz Cheney appears regularly.
Eric Boehlert on Liasson, as well as NPR’s contract:
I’m not suggesting Liasson has said anything as offensive as Williams, or that she has that kind of track record while appearing on Fox. I’m just saying that if you look at NPR’s code of ethics, there’s simply no way Liasson should be making appearances on Fox.
Here’s why [emphasis added]:
9. NPR journalists must get permission from the Vice President for their Division or their designee to appear on TV or other media. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if NPR determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of NPR or the NPR participant.
10. 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. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than rather than fact-based analysis.
Also, the NPR ethics code, written “to protect the credibility of NPR’s programming by ensuring high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and staff conduct,” forbids NPR journalists from participating in appearances that “may appear to endorse the agenda of a group or organization.”
This is what I was wondering about this morning. The morals or ethics clause makes all the difference in someone’s contract. Number 10 above in bold absolutely outlines what Juan, but also Liasson, was/is doing for Fox. We’ve got a conflict.
The Right has gone berzerk over the firing of Williams. Sarah Palin has called for NPR’s defunding, and is challenging Pres. Obama on it.
If Pres. Obama won’t weigh in on DADT he’s not going to step into this minefield.
NPR could have handled this situation worse, but right now I can’t think how.
Williams was having a discussion with O’Reilly that revealed something about the NPR contributor that showed he feared for his safety if he flew on a plain with someone exhibiting his/her Muslim faith openly. Professionals have all sorts of personal feelings and opinions, which many of us keep to ourselves even when it’s difficult. Juan broke that wall and is paying for it.
Our whole society has become confessional. Blame it on Oprah.