TLP: No Hugging, No Learning
Once upon a time, a White House press secretary said people needed to watch what they say. Two Washington reporters learned that lesson last year — from their bosses — when they were fired after making remarks that sparked criticism about their ability to appear impartial. Juan Williams lost his NPR gig and Helen Thomas was canned from reporting at the White House for Hearst Newspapers.
Happy New Year, you two!
Vivian Schiller, the president and chief executive of NPR, was denied her 2010 bonus by the NPR board, which said it was concerned over her role in the firing. The board expressed confidence, however, in her leadership in the future.Williams didn't seem to have missed a meal, but Thomas may have had to dip into the Alpo. Or at least her Social Security. All better now.
Dave Edwards, the director and general manager of WUWM in Milwaukee, and chairman of the NPR board, said the hasty decision to fire Mr. Williams contributed to criticism of the organization and elevated the debate over federal financing for public radio.
“In retrospect, we learned that we should slow down the process, make sure there are people around the table to seriously consider the impact of a decision of this magnitude, and then you have to make the hard decisions,” Mr. Edwards said.
The board played no role in the departure of Ms. Weiss, Mr. Edwards said, adding that personnel decisions were up to Ms. Schiller, who declined to comment on the resignation. She called it a private matter, but acknowledged that employees “were surprised.”
Ms. Weiss dismissed Mr. Williams by telephone after he said that he sometimes felt uneasy when fellow airline passengers were wearing “Muslim garb.” He made the comments on Fox News Channel, where he was a paid contributor in addition to his NPR work, and where he has become a full-time political analyst.
As a political reporter and columnist for a half-century, Helen Thomas witnessed her share of career crashes and rebirths in Washington. Now, seven months after being forced from her job over disparaging comments she made about Jews, she can add her own name to that list.Of course, she'll have a tough time getting back in the front row of the White House press room.
Ms. Thomas, who became one of the country’s most recognizable journalists for her irascible and tenacious presence in the White House briefing room, made her return to journalism on Thursday with a column in The Falls Church News-Press, a weekly paper in a Virginia suburb of Washington.
It is a smaller platform than the one Ms. Thomas is used to.
Her writing for United Press International and later for Hearst Newspapers reached millions. The News-Press is a weekly with a circulation of just under 30,000 that is given out free near Washington Metro stops. The paper’s founder, Nicholas F. Benton, dismissed the notion that Ms. Thomas harbored ill will toward Jews.
Ms. Thomas, 90, seemed content to avoid too much contentiousness her first day on the job. Her column was on a rather vanilla subject in comparison with Israeli-Palestinian tensions: the privatization of Social Security.