Who had the Worst Week in Washington? NPR's Vivian Schiller.

(Larry Busacca)
By Chris Cillizza
Sunday, March 13, 2011

If not for bad luck, Vivian Schiller wouldn't have any luck at all.

Until this past week, Schiller was the chief executive of National Public Radio. That was before Ron Schiller, the outgoing fundraising director for NPR (and no relation), was caught on video telling two conservative activists posing as representatives of a fake Muslim charity that the tea party is "seriously racist" and that conservatives are "anti-intellectual." Um, not good.

Even worse for Schiller - Vivian, that is - it wasn't the first public relations hit for NPR during her two-year tenure.

That came last October when Ellen Weiss, the top news editor, fired political analyst Juan Williams after he said that flying with people dressed in "Muslim garb" made him "nervous." Schiller made matters worse by suggesting that Williams's comments on a Fox News show should have been "between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist."

Weiss eventually resigned in January after an internal review of her termination of Williams, and the NPR board of directors stripped Schiller of her bonus.

Hoping to begin the image-rehabilitation process - not to mention answer the Republican critics aiming to zero out the $430 million in federal funds for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - Schiller delivered a keynote address at the National Press Club on Monday.

"At a time when our industry is cutting back, when punditry is drowning real news and thoughtful analysis, NPR is moving continuously forward with quality reporting and storytelling," Schiller declared.

Less than 48 hours later, she was gone, resigning before she was fired despite the fact that, by all accounts, she helped expand NPR's online and offline business during her time in the top job.

Vivian Schiller, for all the things you didn't consider, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail chris.cillizza@wpost.com with your nominees.

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