WASHINGTON (LALATE) – Vivian Schiller did not handle the Juan Williams NPR firing correctly, says Alicia C. Shepard. Alicia C. Shepard says NPR should have given Juan Williams an opportunity to defend himself rather than terminate him immediately. And who is Alicia C. Shepard? She is NPR’s Ombudsman who today tells news a mixture of praise and problems she has with Williams, NPR, and Schiller over the media mess.
Despite anyone’s position on the matter, Alicia C. Shepard makes clear that the termination of Juan Williams prompted the largest one day reaction to NPR in recent years. Alicia C. Shepard says that the NPR initial report of Williams’ firing drew nearly 7,000 comments from readers; the NPR server crashed handling email submissions from readers reacting to the news; that nearly 8,000 emails were processed in one day alone; and that NPR telephones never stopped ringing.
Despite Shepherd’s thoughts about the matter, how did NPR listeners react? She said she got comments of support and anger towards Williams. But overall, Shepherd says the message was support for Williams and demanding his return.
“The overwhelming majority are angry, furious, outraged. They want NPR to hire him back immediately. If NPR doesn’t, they want all public funding of public radio to stop. They promise to never donate again. They are as mad as h-ll, and want everyone to know it. It was daunting to answer the phone and hear so much unrestrained anger.”
How did the reaction compare to previous NPR sandals? Alicia C. Shepard says nothing has ever compared to it as far she is aware of. She said a “controversial” appearance by Williams on FOX in 2008 drew a mere 378 comments.
And despite what Shepard’s position is on Williams, she is clear about one thing; NPR, in her mind, wrongly handled the firing. “If he is correct, that’s too bad. I think NPR owed him a chance to explain himself.” She says NPR now has a “public relations nightmare” because he was “told his contract was terminated without an opportunity to come into NPR and discuss the firing.”