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NPR Board Chair Speaks Out on Schiller Resignation

Image by Sarah Reynolds
NPR's Headquarters Building in Washington

The chairman of NPR’s Board of Directors spoke with public radio stations across the country this afternoon about the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO.  You can listen to that statement here.

Dave Edwards of WUWM in Milwaukee said in a teleconference that the decision to accept the resignation was a difficult one for both the board  and for Schiller.  Edwards praised Schiller’s work for the company and for the industry during her tenure at NPR.

In the past six months, NPR has experienced a series of embarrassing events.  Commentator Juan Williams was dismissed last fall, following comments he made on Fox News.  His rapid dismissal prompted a public backlash. This week, a videotape that surfaced in which outgoing NPR executive  Ron Schiller (no relation) made disparaging remarks about some conservative groups.  Edwards said the board felt those events have become a distraction to NPR and “hindered [Vivian Schiller's] ability to lead the organization.”

In response to the Ron Schiller video, Edwards told one reporter that he had to stop and later resume watching the video, because he found the remarks so deeply disturbing.

“I have never once heard the views expressed in that video uttered by any NPR employee to me,” Edwards said. “I think they were clearly the views of an individual, and I don’t know the motives behind what he said.  But those views are not representing any of the views of anybody that I’ve ever heard inside the company, the board, management or any staff member.  I found them to be absolutely repulsive to the values that we have as an industry, and we have to articulate the fact that is not who we are, that we welcome a variety of viewpoints, and we don’t discriminate against anyone’s particular view or political position.”

In an earlier statement, KUT General Manager Stewart Vanderwilt said, “Mr. Schiller’s statements are a direct assault on the credibility, civility and diversity that are hallmarks of NPR’s programming. I was personally flabbergasted that a seemingly well-informed executive would so grossly mischaracterize the private-public funding partnership that has built public broadcasting over the past 40 years.”

Moving forward, Edwards expressed confidence in the senior management team at NPR, now led by interim CEO Joyce Slocum.  He added there will be a comprehensive review of the company’s news ethics policy, part of an ongoing review of human resources practices.