Ellen Weiss, the senior vice president of news at National Public Radio whose quick firing of senior news analyst Juan Williams last October ignited a political and public relations firestorm, resigned Thursday.
Her resignation comes at the conclusion of an internal investigation into the firing conducted by the NPR board and the outside law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
Ms. Weiss’s quick dismissal of Mr. Williams, by phone, after he made controversial comments about Muslims on Fox News Channel, was found by the investigation to be legal under terms of his contract. But the way it was handled “became a flash point” in the debate that ensued, said NPR media reporter David Folkenflik. In the resulting political uproar, some Republicans called for an end to federal financing of NPR.
Even though the probe showed that she was well within her rights to fire him, they still decided to withhold her bonus for 2010 because of how the whole situation was mishandled and because of the firestorm that was created as a result.
She needed to step down because her actions is being used as a talking point by those who are wanting to cut NPR's federal funding.
However, NPR is still very susceptible to getting their federal funding cut, despite Ms. Weiss stepping down. The political winds in DC is blowing towards cutting frivolous discretionary spending because of the huge deficits and debt, and NPR is just too perfect of a target for the Republicans in Congress to ignore. Also, since NPR can survive on its own without the funding, so, Democrats will be hard-pressed to come up with an argument good enough to save it, especially if they don't want to considered too liberal or a free-spender, and in this era of TEA Party, that is the last thing that red-state Democrats will want to be labeled as. They won't survive 2012, if they are considered a "free-spending, big government liberal" by the voters.
Correction: I do apologize. I missed that it was Vivia Schiller, NPR president, not Ms. Weiss that had her bonus held back.