October 21st, 2010
01:50 PM ET

NPR cans Juan Williams, stirs up blogosphere, Twitterati

Many have run to analyst Juan Williams' defense, but some feel NPR was right to can him.

NPR has fired Juan Williams over remarks he made on "The O'Reilly Factor" this week, and there is no shortage of opinions on the analyst's ouster.

Many have jumped to his defense and others have applauded NPR's stand, while a few have expressed concern about the recent firings of journalists who made remarks deemed insensitive or inappropriate. One observer compares the editing of the Williams clip to the video of Shirley Sherrod, which saw the U.S. Department of Agriculture employee fired before her remarks were put into context.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said his remarks were inconsistent with NPR's editorial standards and practices and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

NPR's ethics code provides some insight into the firing: "In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."

To recap, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly faced heat last week after remarks he made about Muslims on "The View." He was discussing those comments with Williams on "The O'Reilly Factor" when Williams made the remarks NPR found objectionable.

"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," Williams said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Here is a roundup of reactions from blogs, columns and tweets around the nation:

Sarah Palin: "NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left's hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you"

Slate's William Saletan: "Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of [Shirley] Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her. Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot."

Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic: "There's a larger trend here, the increasing tempo of journalist firings around the issues of Islam, terrorism, and Israel. There is Helen Thomas, of course, as well as Octavia Nasr, who was fired by CNN for praising the radical Shi'a Ayatollah Fadlallah. Helen Thomas is a ridiculous figure, and her comments touched on the Shoah, so I think my position on her firing remains, good riddance, but Nasr's firing seemed unjustified to me, and Williams's removal, so far at least, seems unjustified as well."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: His denials of bigotry aside, Williams’ remarks this week validated a stereotype of all Muslims as terrorists just as a similar comment about black people — 'When I get on a bus, if I see black people, I get worried, I get nervous' — validates a perception about black people as criminals. There is no qualitative difference between the two stances. A very small percentage of black people are criminals, and a much much smaller percentage of Muslims are terrorists. But once you start defining the much larger group by the activities of that much smaller subset, you start down a very bad road. NPR, in other words, acted appropriately."

Forbes' Conor Friedersdorf: "I don’t think that Mr. Williams should be fired by NPR, or that it’s good practice in general to fire people based on a single remark, however offensive. (There are exceptions. This isn’t one of them.) I say this as someone who is glad that there is a strong social stigma against bigotry. There is an upside to this stigma that is under-appreciated: it signals to some people that bigotry is wrong, even if they don’t quite understand why."

Mike Huckabee: "NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left."

NPR media reporter David Folkenflick: "Williams also warned Fox host Bill O'Reilly agst blaming all Muslims for 'extremists,' saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Tim McVeigh"

Salon's Glenn Greenwald: "If we're going to fire or otherwise punish people for expressing Prohibited Ideas against various groups, it's long overdue that those standards be applied equally to anti-Muslim animus, now easily one of the most - if not the single most - pervasive, tolerated and dangerous forms of blatant bigotry in America."

Council on American-Islamic Relations' National Executive Director Nihad Awad: "Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR."

Think Progress: "... [Williams'] kind of thinking is exactly what digs the hole that is America’s fight against terrorism deeper by letting the enemy define the terms of the struggle ..."

Jacob Heilbrunn, author and Huffington Post contributor: He said there "should be taboos when it comes to public discourse. Some taboos are necessary and even vital. Yes, trash-talking about Muslims has become dangerously prevalent. But firing Williams only feeds those sentiments. The honorable thing would have been for Williams to apologize and for NPR to have moved on. Now it's created a furor and turned Williams into a martyr. Williams will survive his firing. The real loser isn't Williams, but NPR."

Editor William Kristol of The Weekly Standard: "Do the powers-that-be at NPR think Juan Williams is a bigot? Do they think a traveler who has a reaction (fair or unfair) like the one Juan describes, in our age of terror in the name of Islam, is a bigot? Of course the powers-that-be at NPR know he's not. In fact, I suspect the powers-that-be at NPR pretty much think what Juan thinks. But the standards of political correctness must be maintained. Pressure groups speaking for allegedly offended Muslims must be propitiated. And so Juan had to go."

Big Journalism's P.J. Salvatore: "A taxpaying-funded organization fired someone over their free speech? No! Shocker! ... Can we stop pretending that this is serious radio and pull their public funding already?"

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Islam • Sarah Palin • Twitter
soundoff (764 Responses)
  1. jasper garcia

    The problem with white america is that they have a death grip on political correctness and you no longer can say what you feel and the fact is that Islam is beating the white people into submition by political intimidation and terror and they are too frightened too say any thing that might cause Islam to be offended.

    October 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Stingray

    Unfortunately Juan is just one more victim of a Liberal Fascism that has become all too pervasive in our country. If he said Tea Party members, the "Religious Right", Christians, Conservatives, or White people with guns made him nervous NPR would not have balked. The Left in this country has been stifling free speech for years in this country from their presidents Wilson and FDR witch hunts during WWI and WWII respectively to their present day political correctness and continual violence against anything they dislike. They are the modern day Jack Booted Thugs.

    October 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mike Austin

    Here's a discussion on my own blog at Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ethics-everyone/201010/juan-williams-bill-oreilly-and-critical-thinking

    October 25, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. str8edgejenny

    I wonder if Mr. Williams had simply stated a disclaimer before saying a single word to Mr. O'Reilly that his opinions are not necessarily NPR's opinions if he would have been safe? If we censor EVERYTHING we think, believe or feel then HELL we"d have nothing to talk about. SAD.

    October 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gianna Brutus

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    October 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. readthebook

    your place or mine?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dennis

    Really Melanie?

    What do you think about an NPR 'journalist' who says a man and/or his grandchildren (who have done/said nothing wrong) should contract AIDS? What do you feel about such a 'journalist' if they worked at NPR?

    October 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. ron

    Stupid liberal . Eat your own. Juan is a liberal, we conservatives simply believe he has a right of free speach. But of course you lazy liberals only allow your accepted speach. Get a life you bozo!

    October 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jason

    Jesse Jackson said "he felt nervous when he heard footsteps behind him but feels relieved when he turns around and it's a White Person". Now is he Professional? And let's not forget what he said about Pres Obama. There have been numerous
    attacks by Radical Islamists since 1972 at the Munich games. I could name them all but that is a lot of typing. If you listen or read the
    transcripts of his whole conversation on O'Reilly then u would see he actually was against the generalization made against Muslims. And to label Foxnews "racist" is Ignorant and untruthful at best. Btw why u should ask NPR why they have no BLACK Analysts or Journalists working for them? Racism? And to call someone Evil just because u disagree with them is just plain Stupid and shows your lack of discussion or debating in any subject you disagree with. Don't think I'm personally calling u stupid or ignorant just your opinions. I as an Adult can agree to disagree without
    attacking someone personally. And Foxnews is to Right Wing as NPR,CNN,MSNBC is to left wing.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Brian

    NPR is a liberal-biased news station that cannot even survive on air without being supported by taxpayers money

    October 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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