WASHINGTON — NPR and its public radio stations around the country got an earful from listeners and angry citizens in the middle of pledge season Friday over its firing of commentator Juan Williams, receiving thousands of complaints and scattered threats to withhold donations.
Still, a number of major stations said they are meeting or surpassing their fundraising goals in the wake of the furor over Williams' dismissal for saying he gets nervous on a plane when he sees Muslims.
“We find ourselves kind of caught between NPR and the audience,” said Craig Curtis, program director at KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., which won't hold its pledge drive until next month. He said the station had received about 150 comments on the firing, mostly disapproving, and three people asked to cancel their memberships.
Meanwhile, conservative leaders including Sarah Palin are calling on Congress to cut off NPR's federal funding — an idea that was also raised in the 1990s and didn't get very far.
Williams was fired Wednesday over comments he made on “The O'Reilly Factor” on the Fox News Channel, his other employer. “When I get on a plane,” he said, “I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
On Friday, Williams said on ABC's “Good Morning America” that NPR had been “looking for a reason to get rid of me” for some time because its executives disapproved of his appearances on Fox.
NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller held a staff meeting Friday to discuss a recent union agreement and said management was standing by its decision, spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm in Washington said. Schiller acknowledged that NPR didn't handle the firing perfectly and said executives would review their process, Rehm said.