Pride and President

Friday, September 28, 2007


In January, President Bush granted an interview to NPR’s Juan Williams. Last week, the White House rang to offer Williams a second sit-down but NPR declined. Why? NPR’s Ellen Weiss explains.

Comments [43]

Mike from Montreal


What you are asking for is as impossible as intelligent, informed and unbiased reporting on love.


May. 13 2009 12:01 PM
aileen danaher

I am looking for more information on specific journalism programs that deal with intelligent, informed and unbiased reporting on religion. The Leopold program at Stanford University has been mentioned but I am unable to find specific information.

Feb. 16 2009 01:39 PM
Gene Valentino from California

Juan Williams appears driven more by objectivity - rather than any idealogical bias. Hence, his stance varies according to his perception of the subject-matter. Whereas, a biased press/reporter filters all through his own criteria - or agenda. Juan Williams has no hidden agenda - he's a good newsman. Let him be.

Oct. 25 2007 10:41 PM

NPR/Ellen Weiss made the right decision. Although such a type of interview is rare, the content would not have been and would have put NPR in the category of other
non news sources masquerading as news sources. Might as well just take notes from news organizations in countries without a free press on how to conduct a one sided interview.

I like Juan Williams' voice quality and general demeanor but can't say that I understand his intentions. And in fact, with the Bush history of paying journalists for positive
coverage, staying as far away from interviews that require one journalist exclusively and one who skips tough questions would certainly be the wisest course for all participants.

Oct. 11 2007 09:34 AM
Greg K from Plymouth, MI

I liked the interview and appreciate the effort for balance, but I must chastise Bob Garfield for his clear and present bias when he called Fox News Channel the "GOP house organ." He was slick in sliding that in, but his liberal leanings come through.

This is starting to become a habit. It happened a couple of weeks ago, except that time Brooke Gladstone was the guilty party. NPR listeners expect and deserve unbiased interviews into the news.

Oct. 07 2007 07:55 PM
Ken taub from New York City

Juan Williams is a pathetic excuse for a reporter. He's a suck up to the administration lobbing softballs on every pitch. My dissappointment in NPR grows every time I hear him on air.

Oct. 04 2007 02:09 PM
Debra Thurston from Connecticut

NPR made a decisive turn to the right during the first Gulf War, and Juan was on-board. Instead of defending their good investigative journalism and increasing listener-ship, NPR abandoned its mission. I began listening in '84 and it was a breath of fresh air. Now, on Morning Edition, Juan shills, Cokie (whom I so admired) phones it in, Mara (so biased it makes my head spin) and others spend more time giving me human interest and cutesy stories. I get a little NEWS, even less analysis and minuscule historical context. A few excellent reporters remain at NPR and you readers know who they are. The internet, BBC, on-line Progressive Talk Radio and FreeSpeech Television (on cable) provide the news I need for clear and informed thinking. Juan, I look forward to hearing from you in 2010 the 45th anniversary of the Watts Riots, as the voice of all minorities and other political pablum. I will muddle through the plethora of Republican friendly news stories on Morning Edition until I reach over and turn it off in disgust (currently, within 10 minutes). Thanks for letting me vent.

Oct. 04 2007 09:51 AM
Jason 'Great White' - Shark Nall from Community of Redland, NW of Homestead. Fl.

Because of Public Radio Stations terrible baises (most unprofessional and disgraceful practices were listed in the comments) towards the conservative society that I have listened to through out these last two-years, when I started listening to Public Radio all day, I have only read the comments. Plus, knowing it was Dictator Bush being interviewed, I expected nothing less. Now, I will never listen to it and waste my time, I will continue with public radio stations not see any of my money. Public radio could be on life support and I would not donate, until all those who regulate media and especially public media are not form the conservative party and public radio stations remember whom Bill Moyers and Edward Robert Murrow are and why they are legends.

Oct. 04 2007 08:59 AM
Warren Terra from Cambridge, MA

Juan Williams has contributed a long series of interviews of senior Bush administration officials to NPR. All were notable for their extreme softball quality, and in all of these interviews real whoppers were aloud to slide smoothly by - the sort of lines that would have caused any informed and dedicated interviewer to at least raise the existence of countervailing opinions. All were of subjects rarely interviewed by NPR.

Without specualting as to Mr. Williams's beliefs or motives, he seems more than anything committed to inoffensive blandness. This approach certainly makes him useful to Fox and its usual beneficiaries, but it would be wrong to assert that Mr. Williams has adopted this position corruptly. Certainly, when Mr. Williams spent years hosting "Talk Of The Nation", he was perfecting an approach of bland agreeability and nonconfrontation. To my mind, this approach has quite destroyed "Talk Of The Nation", but since than the approach has been far more destructive when it characterized NPR's only interviews of senior Administration officials.

Oct. 03 2007 05:24 PM
steven waldbaum from scarsdale.ny

Why did the White House select Mr Williams ?
They obviously cannot afford to expose Mr Bush to sharp
questions consequently they wanted someone
who is 'allright'.
Frankly I am so tired of beeing 'spun' and grateful to NPR for having saved me from an unwanted
infotainment session.
I am sorry for Mr Williams. But maybe at Fox he would feel more usefull. They can use some input of Pablum
to soften their loud voices.

Steven Waldbaum

Oct. 03 2007 03:41 PM
Scott Larson from Ireland

Anyone who thinks that Juan Williams is a "conservative" either has a very flexible view of what the word means or (more likely) has never heard him go head-to-head with Brit Hume on the weekly panel discussions on Fox News Sunday. NPR is entitled to handle a White House interview offer in any way it sees fit. But it's a shame to see a good journalist like Williams publicly and professionally excoriated because he doesn't live up to the expectations of a particular political faction.

Oct. 03 2007 10:53 AM
Jeff Friedlander from Columbus, Ohio

It was a mistake for Weiss to accept the first interview as the terms were then dictated by the Bush Administration. She made the right move this time, but allowing the interviewee to choose the interviewer is strictly against NPR's code of journalistic conduct. I hope this is a mistake that is not repeated by an otherwise exemplary news source.

Oct. 03 2007 10:08 AM
Craig from NJ

Did NPR offer to accept the invitation but with another reporter being assigned to conduct the interview? One can reasonably suspect an unspecified substitute would be rejected but it might have been interesting, perhaps enlightening, to see what other reporter(s) would have been acceptable.

Oct. 03 2007 09:41 AM
Sharad Sathe from Randolph, NJ

This has become an issue only because it involved the President - and that too our current esteemed President. May be NPR should have gone ahead with the interview, immediately followed by Mr. Williams being interviewd by one of his colleagues. This would have give him a chance to explain why he did not ask certain questions/ followup questions and how that is consistant with his journalistic integrity, etc.

Oct. 03 2007 09:04 AM
Mary from Rahway, New Jersey

WBAI is the alternative and Amy Goodman is the best. Try hiring her away from them. I think perhaps people become awed by they're interviewing, and don't wish to offend for fear of getting further "GET"S from them. Witness Nancy Reagan not speaking to Mike Wallace when he challenged her regarding the million dollar speaking fee her husaband received from the Japanese after he left office.

Oct. 03 2007 07:24 AM
Essex Porter

NPR Communications VP Andi Sporkin said at:

"Last weekend, the White House offered an interview to Juan for NPR News, to take place today. Instead, we offered more than a dozen show hosts as well as our two White House correspondents."

So didn't NPR offer to let the White House CHOOSE any one but Juan Williams?

Oct. 03 2007 02:22 AM
donna from jersey city

If it's National PUBLIC Radio, I think we should be able to hear the interview. Otherwise all we'll hear are the same opinions over and over again.

Oct. 02 2007 10:28 PM
norman from Connecticut

NPR did the right thing. During the Bush administrations, when Juan Williams has interviewed members of the administration, he let them spin to their heart's content never asking one of them a hard question. I recall one particular interview when the secretary of Commerce,(Evans I believe) referring to the latest employment numbers, gushed that Bush's tax cuts were working. Williams did not challenge the assertion even though all of the jobs created were created by government and none by the private sector.

Oct. 02 2007 07:05 PM
Judge Mental from New Joisey

I think that NPR misses a golden opportunity every time they forget about the Good News in America. What ever happened to the stories about the prize heifers...or the chicken that knows how to tap it's abc/s....people wake up, we need happy fun stories!

Oct. 02 2007 06:56 PM
jerry shapiro from new york

NPR is PUBLIC RADIO. it's also a news gathering and disseminating organization. it's not the MORAL or POLITICAL police. and George Bush is the President of the United States. if NPR is looking for broad-based public support to help it survive and prosper, it might consider that fact the next time any President extends an invitation (should that ever happen again). the pr fallout from this idiotic decision can do nothing but harm to NPR. the more appropriate way to handle the situation would be to have the interview and then have a another correspondent make a comment one way or the other. Should the Washington Post have declined the Watergate story because Deep Throat chose Woodward and Bernstein? it's ridiculous. Ms. Weiss might want to consider a new line of work - something more religious or judgmental perhaps. she has certainly failed both NPR and the public with her silly decision.

Oct. 02 2007 06:38 PM
Judith Alexander from Oak Park, Illinois (WBEZ-FM)

I'm glad that OTM finally did a story on how NPR's news organization operates in general, and on Juan Williams in particular. The audio clips of his softball interview with President Bush revealed what has been clear to NPR listeners for some time. Williams is not only a conservative, but a "journalist" unable to set his politics aside when doing a story. For example, his piece a few months ago on politicians able to bridge the racial divide made no mention of Bill Clinton. Clinton was (and remains) so popular among African-Americans that he's been called our first black President. No American President has bridged the divide more successfully. I am disappointed that Bob Garfield failed to follow up the clips he played with a question that's been bothering me for months. Why is Williams doing interviews and stories for NPR at all? His conservative bias is clear in most of his work. That makes him a perfect fit for Fox, but I expect much more from NPR.

Oct. 02 2007 06:36 PM
Sweet Jeesus from New Joisey

NPR is beginning to resembled the SNL joke...meandering / rambling stories about crap no one really cares about....get relevant or get off the air.

Oct. 02 2007 06:29 PM
Richard Unice from Tinton Falls, NJ

Comment # 14 posted by Mr. Tindel is confusing. Since when is the person being interviewed allowed to specify the person who will conduct the interview? President Bush clearly doesn't want to be challenged about anything; just a series of bland questions that aren't too complicated. We should have more of the British type of interviews.

Oct. 02 2007 05:59 PM
Bob Garfield from undisclosed

The right wing has its black helicopters, and the left has its own imaginary boogeymen. It amazes me to be confronted by the supreme confidence of David B. in alleging that the Weiss interview was some sort of corporate P.R. job. Alas, the man has no idea what he's talking about.
OTM approached NPR, which at first declined the interview. NPR has NEVER asked us to do any story -- about the network, or about anything else.
As for the substance of the interview, it didn't sound especially "comfortable" to me. But, as is often the case, the questions were at least as important as the answers.
Finally, no listener is ever asked to be "convinced" by an interviewee. What we all do is evaluate the responses, and if we find them somehow wanting that has value in itself.
Perhaps David B. imagines that he and he alone has been endowed with the gift of skepticism, that all other listeners are hapless gulls. If so, he imagines wrong.
-- Bob Garfield

Oct. 02 2007 05:50 PM
rache ltourre from Toulouse, France

Once upon a time it was a journalist's job to question an interviewee, not editorialize during an interview. Juan Williams always does his job in a craftsman-like way. Unfortunately,we prefer "journalists" who score points.

Oct. 02 2007 05:38 PM
David B. from Massachusetts

Weiss's explanation is bizarre, and the "interview" of Weiss is a bunch self-inflating softballs designed to give Weiss a comfortable, if completely unconvincing, explanation for the decision. What a hideous piece of manufactured propaganda by NPR.

Oct. 02 2007 04:29 PM

To the feller calling Inskeep a right winger, yo Double A, try this one on for size:

If you're lucky you'll catch one of their hilarious fund raisers, which run at the end of every minute or so.

Oct. 01 2007 05:25 PM
Bill Williams from Phoenix

I have enjoyed Juan's work for many years. (I hope that doesn't make me a right-wing tool?) Thanks to OTM for airing the program. It cast some light into a very dark place - the mind of NPR management!
I raise two points:
1. Ms Weiss skillfully introduced a question of Juan's journalistic integrity when she raised the notion of Juan's bias. The point is a good one, but could have been more forcefully made had she acknowledge her own.
2. Suprisingly, Juan was nowhere to be found! A more "fair and balanced" interview [Oh my gosh, can I say that on NPR?] would have solicited a comment from Juan.
All the best to Juan!

Oct. 01 2007 02:44 PM
haans petruschke from kirTland Ohio

Both, Roberts and Williams are very obviously biased. Additionally, I believe one of the reasons NPR changed hosts on Morning Edition was to get rid of the even handed Bob Edwards, and replace him with the right winger Steve Inskeep. Neither Roberts nor William's add anything to NPR. Both hold the position of senior correspondent, which seems to mean they have no regular assignments. They should not be given air time.

Perhaps that NPR declined the Bush interview is an indication that NPR's sharp right turn may be coming to an end, and that integrity is returning to the organization.

Oct. 01 2007 01:59 PM
Ray Tindel from Chicago, Illinois

So, NPR does not collect the news unless Ms Weiss can dictate the terms? I am very disappointed to hear this; it certainly does not accord with my impression here-to-fore of the often heroic efforts of NPR reporters. Ms. Weiss's ethics?!?!?! Sorry, I am not impressed, and I hope she soon finds a different line of work where she can cause less damage.
Yours Faithfully,
Ray Tindel

Oct. 01 2007 12:11 PM
Eric Swenson from Seattle

Refusing the White House request for Bush's "buddy" Juan (Bush actually called him that at the end of the last interview) is the LEAST NPR can do. What it should really do is never use Juan again. He has so clearly proven that he doesn't have the mettle or intellectual integrity for the assignments NPR gives him. Where are NPR's standards? Is there no review of his work because he is a "Senior Correspondent?" His interviews with Bush and Cheney were shameful, absolutely shameful. Let him go do his thing on Fox. Don't continue to allow him the cover of legitimacy that an NPR title confers on him.

Sep. 30 2007 11:43 PM
Mary Pelkey from New London, NH

I used to hold Juan Williams commentary in high regard. After I heard his "interview" with Dick Cheney in 2004 I was so out raged that I refused to make a station contribution that quarter. How could NPR allow Dick Cheney to state that there were WMDS in Iraq without Juan Williams demanding his evidence! And now William's is working for Fox!! It is time for Juan Williams to get a full time job at Fox and let someone with credibility take over for him at NPR.

Sep. 30 2007 06:50 PM
Bonnie Tenneriello from Boston

Imagine NYT liberal firebrand Frank Rich reporting for NPR. Can't? That's because it wouldn't happen. Yet when longtime conservative commentator Juan Williams poses as a reporter he fits right in. NPR plays such an inside the beltway game it has forgotten how to ask a tough follow-up of anyone to the right of Hugo Chavez, and Williams fits right in with that deferential culture.

Sep. 30 2007 04:35 PM
margaret Daniello from WHYY

I've been watching and listening to Juan Williams for over 20 years. In those 20 years he has become a person who has done a complete about face in his political thinking, and I no longer listen. Conversely, Adriana Huffington had done an about face and has become a free thinker and I watch. George Bush would not submit to a free forum, even his addresses to the people of this country are contrived stage settings, with rarely a question, and when there is one, it's from a "set-up". It's so transparent.

Sep. 30 2007 01:59 PM
Anke Koning from Chicago

Today's story, Pride and President, would have benefitted from a comment directly from Juan Williams. As presented, the story appears to be NPR management wielding control.

Sep. 30 2007 12:46 PM
J Satin from New York City

Jan Williams? That Bill O'Rielly/FOX Noise mouth piece? How can NPR possibly consider ever having him as a reporter/spokeperson is beyond me.
Certainly makes me question the credibility of NPR when they use someone like that.

Sep. 30 2007 10:34 AM
levinejj from NJ

Maggi, Iverson:

If NPR thinks Williams asks the wrong questions then it's their duty to its listeners/mission to make him ask better ones -- or find another Juan Williams who will.

If they can't because he's a freelancer then they need ta pays da money for staff reporters who do what they say. This isn't even complicated, espesh w dem McBucks...

& with regard to hiring Roberts and Williams simply because of who they are: Who are they?? Roberts=IS Washington politics!!! Williams=on the latest landmark minority issue -- the President CALLS HIM! Both GREAT REASONS to KEEP these folks, not dump them -- but they must be used correctly.

Sep. 29 2007 08:27 PM
Dan Iverson from Seattle

It is very apt to put Juan Williams and Cokie Roberts in the same category, as in each case there are very clear professional conflicts of interest stemming from their moonlighting for the corporate media. I have long felt that both of these talking heads existed solely for NPR to be able to deny a liberal bias. Here's to hoping that Juan winds up looking as silly for his toadying to the shrub as Cokie and her hubby did after their shrill diatribes against the internet...

Sep. 29 2007 07:29 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

What holes? It's "flawed logic" for Weiss to refuse going with Williams serving up another bunch of softballs? It's "flawed logic" to have the Hilary campaign control the questioning to just the health care plan and not other important subjects?

Bush spouting off his usually bunch of lies, half truths and skewed facts while he runs out the clock isn't a legit news story, unless one follows the properties of News Corp, Disney, Time Warner or General Electric.

Weiss was right to refuse. Bush doesn't like it when a reporter forces him to answer, especially on TV, then he starts to squint, stammer and lose his temper. He and his handlers knew NPR would probably stick him with someone who would call him on his BS.

Sep. 29 2007 05:34 PM
levinejj from NJ

More holes than an NPR News Producer's Osh Kosh B'Goshes in the logic of NPR VP Weiss for refusing to run a legit news story! If this were a relevant business story rather than a political one I would sue. Kudos to OTM for the backstory.

Sep. 29 2007 10:59 AM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

NPR needs to fire Juan Williams and Cokie Roberts because they're shills for Big Media and the GOP.

Sep. 29 2007 09:26 AM
Jeff Sunbury from Austin, TX USA

Juan Williams has been a tool for the Bush Administration since at least before the 2004 Presidential election year. In an interview with Dick Cheney for NPR's Morning Edition in Jan.2004, Williams sat quietly while Cheney stated that "the jury is still out" on WMDs. Ridiculous!

Sep. 29 2007 08:04 AM
Pete Menuez from Cincinnati Ohio


I've always like Juan Williams, still do. But this segment brings up a question. Al Franken some months ago had Juan on his show and drilled him for being a Fox shill...It makes me wonder if Juan has lost some objectivity for the lime light...

Sep. 28 2007 11:37 PM

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