NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller on Juan Williams Firing

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Rodney Ho happened to be scheduled to interview NPR CEO Vivian Schiller today, and got her first statements on the record about the firing of Juan Williams: First interview with NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Juan Williams firing.

Schiller says that Williams’s statements on Bill O’Reilly’s show were just the latest in a long line of questionable incidents.

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.

Q: So this is obviously not an isolated incident.

A: There’s so much misinformation on the blogosphere, it’s nuts. This has been an on-going issue. [Here’s NPR’s ombudsman’s piece on him last year after the Obama comment.] When he does that, when anybody does that, it undermines their credibility as a journalist or in Juan’s case, a news analyst for NPR. Those two things cannot go together.

And as Sarah Palin and practically the entire right wing blogosphere scream that the federal government should revoke NPR’s funding over this, here’s an interesting bit of information: NPR receives only one to three percent of its funding from the feds.

Q: Could NPR live without federal funding?

A: Let’s go on a sidebar. There’s a misperception about federal funding and public radio. There’s the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They receive $90 million a year and a vast majority goes to member public radio stations. Those stations pull in more than $1 billion collectively a year. It’s significant and important but not even close to the lion’s share of revenues for public radio. NPR gets no allocation from CPB. Zero. We are a private 501(c)3. We’ve had journalists call up and ask what department of the government we report to.  That’s laughable. Have you listened to our shows? We do apply for competitive grants from  the likes of the Ford Foundation and the Knight Foundation. As a result, some money from CPB does come to us when we win grants. Depending on the year, it represents just one to three percent of our total budget.

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