Apology from NPR’s CEO to NAMI

Last Friday afternoon, Michael J. Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, received a telephone call from Vivian Schiller, the CEO of National Public Radio, during which she apologized for a comment that she made during the firing of Juan Williams.  

Schiller made a flippant remark during the recent Williams’ controversy, saying that my former Washington Post colleague and friend, needed to consult “his psychiatrist.”

I found her remark offensive because she was clearly attempting to belittle Williams by suggesting that he needed psychiatric care. There should be no shame in seeking help from a psychiatrist anymore than turning to a cardiologist.

NAMI’s Fitzpatrick agreed with me and sent a letter of complaint to Schiller. He said Monday that her apology was heartfelt and that he accepted it on behalf of NAMI. He also noted that NPR’s reply is one of the swiftest, most straightforward responses NAMI has ever had to a stigma concern. Her letter is printed below.

I got in touch with Juan Williams over the weekend and he reinterated to me how hurtful her remark was. Juan’s wife works in the mental health field and is aware of how harmful stigma can be. I was told that Schiller attempted to contact Juan but since she had refused to meet with him earlier when she decided to fire him, I don’t think he has much interest in speaking to her now.

October 28, 2010

Michael J. Fitzpatrick
Executive Director
National Alliance on Mental Illness
3803 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203-1701

Dear Mr. Fitzpatrick:

Thank you for your letter dated October 26.1 appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with me.

I have great compassion and respect for those who live with mental illness,
and tremendous regard for the mental health professionals and organizations
such as NAMl who serve and advocate on their behalf.

I believe that consulting a mental health professional should be as
unremarkable as seeing any other health care professional.

I deeply regret my unintentionally hurtful remark. Please extend my heartfelt
apology to those individuals and families who battle against the undeserved
stigma of mental illness everyday.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.


Vivian Schiller
President and CEO

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. I don’t know. When someone ‘offends’ with a word, NAMI charges into action, naming names. But I have never heard them criticize by name a MH official, SAMHSA Leader, etc who causes thousands to be jailed, or go without treatment. NAMI should be fighting the more important fights.