A senior executive at NPR has resigned in the wake of an external review which expressed concern over the network's handling of the Juan Williams firing, though it concluded that the dismissal had been legally sound. In addition, NPR's board voted to strip CEO Vivian Schiller of her bonus for 2010.
The resignation of Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior vice president for news and the woman who personally handled Williams' firing--which occurred in the wake of the former NPR analyst's comments about Muslims on Fox News--was announced at the same time as the findings of the review. Weiss had worked at NPR since 1982.
The review was conducted by law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges in coordination with the independent NPR Board. In a statement, the board said it found that Williams' firing was legally sound, and that it was "not the result of special interest group or donor pressure." Even so, the review expressed "concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process."
As for Schiller, the board said it had "expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus."
The board also said it was recommending a review of NPR's ethics code and its policies about the role of its journalists and analysts, as well as its rules about where and how its staff can appear on other outlets.
Williams spoke to Fox News about his encounter with Weiss the morning after his dismissal. He said that she had not given him any chance to defend himself, and told him that the decision to fire him had already been taken.
"I said, 'I don't even get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball to eyeball, person to person?'" he said. "She said, 'there's nothing you can say that will change my mind, this has been decided above me and we're terminating your contract.'"
In a statement issued in conjunction with the release of the review's findings, Schiller strongly praised Weiss, saying she "has made meaningful and lasting contributions to the evolution of NPR and our newsroom" and "exemplifies journalistic professionalism and integrity."
Schiller said that Margaret Smith, NPR's vice president for programming, will fill Weiss' role until a permanent replacement can be found. She added that the fallout from the Williams firing had been "difficult," but that it was time to move on.
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