No Country for Candid Commentators

It was yesterday’s big news online, so it’ll surely be in the paper today: Long-time NPR political analyst Juan Williams has been fired for comments that he made while a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show:

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”
Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.
He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, 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.”

I guess we can’t have political analysts expressing candidly their feelings — then we might actually know what they think beyond the politically correct. Sarcasm aside, Williams went on to suggest that the United States needs leaders who’ll take the spotlight, as President Bush did, and direct Americans’ attentions to the Muslim radicals, not to Islam in general. His point, in other words, was that these impulses are natural and should be addressed so that people don’t act on the emotions inspired by such facts as the Times Square dud bomber’s declaration that “America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood” (in Williams’s words).
At any rate, given other instances in which NPR employees have made offensive comments — about groups and people other than Muslims, of course — and gone without repercussions, the organization should be made to answer for its heavy hand and double standard.
ADDENDUM:
Speaking of NPR, by the way, I’m on WRNI’s Political Roundtable, this morning, which airs on 102.7 FM at around 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.

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Bri
Bri
10 years ago

Juan Williams was fired for what he said. His employer was (indirectly) the United State Government.
Does this qualify as a First Amendment freedom of speech/freedom of the press violation? It seems the Government is limiting what a US citizen and a member of the press can say.
-Bri

Tim
Tim
10 years ago

Juan Williams wasn’t fired for his comments. That was simply the excuse offered up. Juan Williams was fired for his affiliation with Fox News. (Juan made his comments on Monday. He never heard a word from NPR until Wednesday. Did I mention that loony lib human ATM machine George Soros dropped almost 2 mil on NPR very recently???) Even Obama supporting Dems like Juan are targets of the totalitarian left if they break goosestepping ranks. It is a joke that one dime of taxpayer money funds National Progressive Radio.
Cut off public funding of NPR and it will die a certain death just like Air America.

OldTimeLefty
10 years ago

Personally, I don’t think that Juan Williams should have been fired for expressing his paranoia. We’re all a bit paranoid if anyone cares to look.
Still waiting for Justin to say a kind word about Islam. Here is a saying (Hadith)attributed to Muhammad: “Avoid cruelty and injustice…and guard yourselves against miserliness, for this has ruined nations who lived before you.” Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 203.
Justin, please try to be fair and balanced.
OldTimeLefty

BobN
BobN
10 years ago

The hypocrisy of Lefty’s advice to Justin to be “fair and balanced” while he beats the drum for Marxism, class warfare, and hatred of America, is too ugly to go without remark.
The hadith Lefty quoted is drowned out by the scores of others that advocate hatred and violence. The history of Islam worldwide has demonstrated which tenets of that “religion” are important to its leaders. There is absolutely nothing philanthropic or charitable in any of its activities. When there have been disasters in Muslim countries such as the tsunami in Indonesia and earthquakes/floods in Pakistan, all the Muslim countries combined contributed a tiny fraction of what the United States and its citizens did.
Remember, the left wants to be generous, but only if they can do it with your money.

David P
David P
10 years ago

I listened to Political Roundtable this morning and I thought it interesting that this NPR-affiliated station made no mention of the Juan Williams story. Instead, Ian Donnis gave Scott McKay an unrebutted opportunity to smear Christine O’Donnell at the end of the segment. McKay smugly asserted that O’Donnell doesn’t know what the First Amendment says. Whereas the debate earlier this week conclusively demonstrated that she has a far better grasp of the First Amendment then her opponent and, apparently, Scott McKay.

Ian Donnis
10 years ago

David,
We close Political Roundtable each week with a brief irreverent kicker meant to poke fun at the world of politics. Democrats as well as Republicans get skewered, depending on what’s in the news in a given week. Also, the Williams story was included in our morning newscasts.

hellas
hellas
10 years ago

If NPR is so liberal, why last week did it explicitly ban staffers (even those not involved in news) from attending the Stewart/Colbert rally next weekend while not issuing a similar edict for Beckapalooza?
Also, there’s been trouble brewing between Williams and NPR for awhile – the O’Reilly incident didn’t occur in a vacuum. For Williams to have signed on with Fox so quickly, there had to have been a deal already in the works. Instead of breaking his NPR deal to get his $2 million, Williams provokes NPR into firing him so he and Fox can be the heroes.
NPR would’ve been better off quietly letting his contract run out and not re-upping him. Two weeks, two mistakes for NPR.

David P
David P
10 years ago

Obviously NPR felt no need to caution its people against attending the Beck rally since no one from NPR ever would. On the other hand, many NPR staffers would have felt right at home amongst the Kool-Aid drinkers who will be attending next week’s rally.
Whether MacKay’s comment was a smear or an “irreverent kicker” he merely betrayed his own ignorance by suggesting that O’Donnell was the one in need of a First Amendment refresher course.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

OTL- all religious texts have contradictions.That’s why I don’t read them much,if at all.
I personally am much more comfortable with people in obvious Muslim garb on a plane with me than maybe a terrorist who looks nothing like the popular conception.
The “Arab look” doesn’t mean squat.There are many Muslims of Caucasian background,Asian background,Black American,etc,etc.
Hell,the terrorist could be dressed as a Hasidic Jew.
Who thinks of a Muslim terrorist as a Filipino?There are plenty from the Moro community.
Juan Williams,by the way was the only Black talking head at NPR.
Typical liberal hypocrisy-“we don’t care how high you get,as long as you don’t get too close”.
Not every liberal fits the bill,but plenty do.
many elitist White liberals have a low opinion of the intelligence of Blacks and Hispanics.
Not Asians,because they know how stupid that would look.
It’s just that so many Asians revere education.Nothing particularly racial.
Some people think Jews are smart-again,it’s education and nothing else.
I knew some damn stupid Jews.

Scott
Scott
10 years ago

Thanks, Joe, for that refreshingly honest racist screed. You don’t see enough broad public indictments of other creeds and colors as far as I’m concerned. Wanna add some more? How about Haitians? Greek Orthodox?
Our host’s favorite mouth organ, NPR, receives about 2% of its funding from the feds. Juan Williams was no more a federal employee than I am (though it’s rich to see you anti-union types saying someone SHOULDN’T have been fired from a gov’t job).
I wish NPR would’ve handled it differently, if only not to hand such a fine package to the right; but the first amendment doesn’t come into play here, just as it didn’t with Imus or Dr. Laura or any other professional bonehead who publically swallows their own foot (not that I think Williams did that exactly, or deserved to be fired, but them’s the breaks I guess. The new 2 mil contract from Fox probably eases his pain.)

David S
David S
10 years ago

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, 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.”
Well then. I have written some books. I have said some stuff. That in this new world of tweeting is enough to prove your bonafides. This post modern life is too crazy for me.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

Scott-I’m a Jew by background,married to an Hispanic lady for 40 years with a Black grandaughter,so what’s your problem?
What does your family look like?
You know who I HATE?Born to the manner whitebread punks like Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse.
If you took the time to actually READ what I sid,it’s a total rejection of a racial explanation for anything.
Success is a result of the environment of one’s upbringing-a desire to become educated and normal or above intelligence is all that’s needed.
Race is cosmetic.
I could make a nasty remark to you,but I think you just shoot from the hip without taking time to analyze what you’re seeing here.
Try to take a breath before you respond.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

One more thing Scott-I was a union member for 27 years.How long have you been one?
I love getting into it with people like you-you think you know the score.But you don’t.

OldTimeLefty
10 years ago

BobN, I said, “Personally, I don’t think that Juan Williams should have been fired for expressing his paranoia. We’re all a bit paranoid if anyone cares to look.” And BobN, you say that I beat “the drum for Marxism, class warfare, and hatred of America”. Quite a leap Bobby boy, quite a leap. Can you explain to us how you tied those thoughts together. Joe, when you say that “all religious texts have contradictions”, I basically agree with you. However, I read them for that reason. I remind myself not to get too serious about any individual religion, but to respect the good that they try to provide, and to keep my eye on that, which is why I occasionally cite scripture. There is always a tit for a tat. So if you look in the dark corners of any religion, system or government or any human institution, you’ll find an unsightly mess which has deviated from the simple beauty its founder intended. The vast majority of Germans were Protestant and Catholic Christians, but Nazism sprung up there and millions of people were persecuted and killed. I wouldn’t blame Nazism on Christianity though if you care to you can prove that 80% or more of the German population called themselves followers of Jesus. Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels makes the point. Gulliver discovers an island in the midst of a vicious civil war being fought between two factions, The Big-Endians and The Little-Endians. On further inquiry he learns the origin of the dispute; both sides had a common founder who left his disciples with a ritual that involved eating an egg every morning. The disciples asked which end of the egg to crack and the master replied, “The convenient end”. After the master died a bitter dispute erupted as to… Read more »

Sammy
Sammy
10 years ago

Juan Williams was fired for what he said. His employer was (indirectly) the United State Government.
posted by Bri
wrong !!
2% of NPR’s funds come from taxpayers money…98% from donations

G-Man
G-Man
10 years ago

It proves once again that free speech is only the right of liberals.

David P
David P
10 years ago

I can’t even figure out what it was that Juan Williams said that was so objectionable. He admitted to feelings of discomfort when travelling by air with people in Muslim dress but if you listen to the whole conversation he wasn’t justifying those feelings at all. He basically admitted that his discomfort was not entirely rational as the vast majority of Muslims do not intend any violence at all. He certainly wasn’t suggesting that his discomfort should be the basis of any national policy on airline security.
All he did was make a factual statement about feelings, which are not entirely within his control. He said that he had to figure out how to get past those feelings. Conversely, Muslims need to understand that the discomfort Juan Williams described is felt by lots of Americans and it is not necessarily indicative of bigotry. The 9/11 hijackers made a pretty dramatic connection between the Islamic religion and terrorism. It is up to the rest of us to sort out the wheat from the chaff, to come up with sensible security strategies that don’t unduly burden innocent travellers. Muslims should assist in this process and not scream about bigotry and Islamophobia every time they hear something they don’t like.
Eric Holder famously accused the American public of cowardice when it comes to issues of race. I wonder if he thinks NPR’s actions helped or hurt in that regard.

Scott
Scott
10 years ago

Joe B:
I did shoot from hip and I do apologize for my use of the term “racist.” I think you were over broad near the end of your first post (“many elitist White liberals have a low opinion of the intelligence of Blacks and Hispanics,” etc…), but I was still out of line. My bad.
And the anti-organized labor sentiment is pretty damn thick around these parts. If you don’t share it fine, consider that portion of my post addressed to the Royal You.
And Williams wasn’t the only black talking head at NPR (can you be a talking head on the radio? Talking mouth maybe?) Gwen Thompkins and Michelle Martin leap to mind. Though there seems to be a lower proportion of minorities at NPR and PBS (and most major American media outlets) than there is in the rest of America.

hellas
hellas
10 years ago

The NPR ombudswoman was right. NPR handled this incident clumsily, but they should’ve laid down the law to Williams after he compared Michelle Obama to Stokely Carmichael last year. If there’s a line between analysis and commentary, he crossed it there. If NPR people are supposed to play it neutral, Williams sure didn’t then.
In the deal reached after that incident, Williams was not allowed to identify himself as an NPR commentator when he appeared on Fox. He basically laughed at that deal, and nobody at NPR had the guts to call him on it until this week. He became the 800-pound gorilla at NPR in the same way O’Reilly is at Fox.
You don’t get to play the prosecuted victim or the race card when somebody just out the door’s handing you $2 mil. And he’s being supported by people who usually cry foul if they even suspect somebody’s playing the race card.

David S
David S
10 years ago

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, 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.”
I get nervous. What a wimp. You righties want him? Have at it. He was always the house plant in the room anyway. Are there any strong opinions from Juan that you remember? Not allowed on NPR. But gas and oil and coal and tobacco advertising are Omni present on NPR if you listen.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

Posted by Sammy:
“2% of NPR’s funds come from taxpayers money…98% from donations”
Sammy, stop believing what you hear without investigation. True, 2% comes directly from the feds. About another 18% comes from the feds by indirection. NPR claims its money comes from “member fees”, or the sum charged for its programming to affiliates. A half truth, or roundabout. The smaller stations cannot afford the fees, so their fees are paid by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And who funds CPR? You guessed it.
This sort of thing reminds me of the environmental groups like the Sierra Club. They demand that their suppliers change their names to something that sounds like a politically correct charity. By way of example, they would require their direct mailing house to change their name to something like “Wildlife Resource Fund”. This would give the casual reader the impression that they had funded a wildlife resource group.

David P
David P
10 years ago

If federal funding represents such a miniscule portion of NPR’s budget then they’ll hardly miss it.

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