In October, NPR fired Juan Williams. For three months NPR conducted a "review," and Ellen Weiss, the SVP who fired Williams, was forced out earlier this month. Finally, the details of her dismissal are coming out. They're troubling.
Paul Farhi at the Washington Post has the most definitive story yet on exactly why Weiss (pictured) abruptly resigned on January 6. It's now clear that NPR CEO Vivian Schiller ordered Weiss to resign or be fired. What's less clear is whether Schiller was justified in doing so.
The pro-Schiller sources in Farhi's story say that Weiss fired Williams (over the phone, which was undoubtedly a mistake) without getting Schiller's permission first. Pro-Weiss sources dispute that. Then, there's this:
Well before Williams's fateful appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," in fact, NPR's managers had decided not to renew his contract when it was set to expire March 31. Schiller agreed, according to these staffers.
One factor working against Weiss: she's clearly made lots of enemies over her 29 years at NPR. Those enemies are happy to see her get fired! And one of their arguments could hold water: they say that Weiss has a pattern of coldly dismissing employees in a disrespectful manner. Alex Chadwick, a longtime NPR correspondent who was laid off in 2008, says that Weiss fired him over the phone "while Chadwick was in the middle of an appointment with his wife's cancer specialist." She called from his sick wife's old office at NPR. Also, Chadwick was the guy who originally hired Weiss in 1981.
That's cold as a motherfucker! Of course, spending three decades anywhere will make one some enemies. The real question is whether Weiss actually acted in such a poor way in the Williams incident that she deserved to be canned—or whether she was a sacrificial lamb, fired to appease the right-wing's anger over the incident. We lean toward the latter interpretation. If Vivian Schiller thought Juan Williams' firing was unjustified, she would have rehired him. If she approved of his firing but later came to believe that someone had to be sacrificed for the sake of PR, the noble move would have been to fire herself.