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Juan Williams fired, Rick Sanchez fired: National Public Radio (NPR) and CNN face public backlash for respective actions

(via COMTEX News Network)--

Two firings of big names in broadcasting--the latest Juan Williams of National Public Radio and earlier this month of CNN's Rick Sanchez--have created a public relations nightmare for both of the broadcast news outlets involved, according to a leading crisis management public relations expert.

CNN fired anchor Rick Sanchez after he implied on a satellite radio show that Jews run the network and entertainment personalities who are Jewish have an easier time of being promoted than those who are not. He also called Jon Stewart, who is Jewish, a bigot. The cable news network, which is struggling to find viewers, made a quick call and fired Sanchez within hours of making the remarks.

National Public Radio (NPR) fired Juan Williams, its only African-American on air personality, for saying in an interview on Fox News that he gets anxious at airports when Muslims dressed in traditional religious outfits board a plane.

Now, both networks, that when making their independent decisions to fire the employees, apparently believe the public would support them because they were axing people who said things that were controversial or hurtful. Instead they are on the receiving end of criticism.

"Both NPR and CNN made these decisions exceptionally fast. They would want you to believe that they were trying to keep a bad situation from getting worse but the public doesn't believe that's the case in either case," says Glenn Selig, founder of The Publicity Agency (, a leading crisis management public relations firm. "The firings were not deliberate, controlled or well thought out. There was no time to even take a breath. This was knee-jerk at best and that makes people wonder whether there is much more to the stories. It's not passing the public's smell test.

For the public and for journalism pundits something is not adding up, observes Selig. Which is why he says there's so much talk about what's going on so much negative reaction directed at both networks.

Since Juan Williams fired made news, some blogs have speculated that George Soros, who contributes nearly $2-million to public radio network NPR, may have been behind his dismissal.

NPR's CEO told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club that fired NPR analyst Juan Williams should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and his psychiatrist or his publicist.

"But he is a news analyst and he gave his personal opinion. He did not advocate hate. He did not say that Muslims should be thrown off the plane or attacked at airports. He was saying how something made him feel," says Selig. "People are wondering what's really going on here because this doesn't add up. Were they wanting to fire him for some time and just used this as an excuse?"

Selig says he believes that in case of Juan Williams fired and likewise with Rick Sanchez fired, both networks probably predicted the public would support their respective decisions because of the controversial comments that were uttered.

"It's very clear the networks did not think these decisions through. They pounced too quickly and that has raised too many questions and the public is suspicious," says Selig.

Rick Sanchez fired On CNN's 'Larry King Live' earlier this week, Jon Stewart said what so many thought: "I think it's absolute insanity. I think that this idea that people have to be held, to account for eveyrthing that comes out of their mouths as far as their livlihoods are concerned.. Does he do a good job? Were you pleased with his job? Or was it an excuse to get rid of him?"

Selig says the fallout is particularly problematic for the networks because they posture as bastions of truth and justice and the public believes with respect to these firings the networks are being less than honest.

"Both networks want to be 'trusted' and these events make people wonder how truthful they are," says Selig. "That cuts to the core of who and what they are about. And the public feels used. The networks may have preyed on our emotions to try to justify the firings."

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