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. VWRENCHER

    WOW!

    I am shocked. Althought I did not agree with his view, I did not see his comment merit firing. We are getting too sensitize (if that is a word).

    Good Luck Juan, you are a good man.

    It is Obama and Pelosi that need to be fired.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mike M. Scappoose, OR

    why is he penalized for saying what the rest of us feel, scares the hell out of me too? My 92 year old mother in law is not blowing up Americans?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doug C.

      Admitting the feeling was not his sin, his sin was pretending that having such feelings is the root of stereotypical bigotry. As a journalist, he had the obligation to say that this type of feeling is a fear that divides us. Treating any person as a group not an individual is the root of many of our problems.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Marvin Kupfer

    To sort of paraphrase Juan: When I get on a plane, when I see Juan Williams, who is a black man, I think he is identifying himself first and foremost as a black man, I get worried, I get nervous.

    The rule of thumb is if you are a muslim, ...and you want to be a good American and not scare Juan Williams or Bill O'Reilly, do not fly in muslim garb, what until you get to your destination to change into your traditional garb. My note to Juan is that for me to be safe, he should travel by auto everywhere he goes in the country so I don't have to see him on a flight and be worried and nervous.

    I remember the sixties, even if Juan doesn't

    October 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Doug C.

    Mr. Williams has had a tumultuous time at NPR. I remember when he was hosting 'Talk of the Nation' and he would often belittle the opinions of callers. I understand the comment Mr. Williams was making. We all have situations that make us feel 'uncomfortable'. The problem was is that he implicitly indicated that it was OK to feel that way and justified it by saying he was not a bigot. If he would have said afterwards that he was ashamed for his stereotyping even while acknowledging it, he would have been a responsible commentator. It the way he made his statements, his self-declaration that he was not a bigot just showed how easy it is for us all to dismiss our bigoted feelings as OK. And for that he deserves to lose the credibility he had as an NPR news analyst.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. BillyBOB

    BRAVO NPR for firing him. Don't forget to cancel his benefits:-D Now, he does not need to be scaredworried about flying...because he will be "Spending" quality time with his family "grounded":-D

    October 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. lisa

    I am still amazed at the number of seemingly rational people who attack Fox news for their leaning right but never attack MSNBC for their leaning far left. HYPOCRITES to the full hilt!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jerry BFF

      Lots of us complain about left bias in the news. You just don't see it because you only see what you want to see.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony

    George Soros is after FOX and anyone who has anything to do with FOX. Look out – NET NEUTRALITY is on its way too.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • redisgreat

      Neutral news sources, wow what fun would that be? You would never be able to get mad at anything but the truth. Holy moly, politicians would not want that.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. redisgreat

    NPR – what a joke. Who other than my wife listens to this crap anyway?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Indiana-Gene

    THE USA HAS BECOME SO WEAK THAT WE ARE LETTING MUSLIMS TELL US WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT SAY. MUSLIMS DID KILL 3000 AMERICANS, THATS A SORRY FACT! WE ARE SO AFRAID OF TELLING THE TRUTH THAT WE ARE INTIMIDATED. THIS IS A JOKE, WHERE IS HARRY TRUMAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM? PRESIDENT TRUMAN DID NOT BACK DOWN AND BE AFRAID. TELLING US WHAT WE CAN SAY IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, OR YOU KIDDING ME?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • redisgreat

      The truth is – you are stupid.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. whatever

    I am sure this has nothing to do with the $1.8 million that George Soros donated to them to push his New World Order agenda?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • redisgreat

      haha, rich people wanting things their way. I guess Mr. Soros is starting a trend. What....??

      October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      $1.8 million is chump change for both Soros and NPR's budget. Dolt.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tara

    The man has a right to an opinion. I'm sure some Jews feel exactly the same way about Germans. Can you blame them?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • GG

      Yeah but the press is not supposed to be biased, everybody knows that...but being on a biased news channel like Fox...Juan I'm sure felt more than justified making a comment of that nature because comments like that are spit out everyday on Fox and MSNBC...

      October 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Although I agree that Mr. Williams was treated unjustly and that he has a right to his opinion, the Jews / Germans analogy is not good at validation. There is no well-publicized recent history of Germans acting violently to Jews. Likewise, a "German" is not easily identifiable from other caucasian races thus, even if Germans were still hostile to Jews (which they're not), it would still not make sense for Jews to have their head on swivel looking for Germans with no outwardly identifiable charactaristics.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZ

      No bias or justification even applies to this. He meekly admitted to the fear of flying with Muslims which he shares with millions of Americans. That the PC fascists want to squelsh anything that is their 'can't talk about' flavor of the month doesn't stop the fact that there is a real problem that simply quieting one group of people won't solve.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • dman01

      http://www.businessinsider.com/cnn-editor-fired-after-admitting-on-twitter-that-she-has-an-opinion-2010-7

      This is freedom of speech attack at its best. Who cared if the journalist spoke his or her mind and they loose their jobs that is an amendment right that is not allowed in Muslim nations are we now becoming a muslim nation and live by the same Sharia crap laws.. America you had better wake up. TO get fired for opinions is like getting fired for having an argument with someone because you disagree. I Smell Snakes amongst the grass.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marco

      Hypocrites!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew Ingram

      Actually, the German nation worked hard since WW2 to atone for its horrendous conduct, and I believe that most Jews, including me, do not hold the present generation of Germans responsible for the crimes of their grandparents. I have not seen any serious effort by mainstream Muslims to root our the violent element of their religion.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lorimar

      He's a journalist. Leave your opinon at home or it spoils the news. If he is a journalist known for op-eds, then he shouldn't have been fired. But, if he is one to deliver the straight news, then he definitely should be reprimanded for speaking his opinion while 'on the clock' for NPR. Firing him is a bit extreme in this case.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      1)Muslims all over the world have denounced terrorism. Probably MORE SO than Right wing Christians. 2) Radical Muslim Terrorist are not going to board a plane in full Muslim Dress. 3) Tim McVeigh was a terrorist. Do you flinch when a tall young white dude gets on the plane with you? Folks being an ID10T is the problem here.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sjwilliams12

      Juan has a right to his opinion. NPR has the right to fire him. This has nothing to do with the first amendment. Juan gets paid to express opinions. If his employer finds that his opinions fall out of line with their organizational code of conduct, ie. he’s not doing his job well, they can fire him. The first amendment doesn’t guarantee you no consequences for what you say…

      I wonder how Juan would react if his employer went on air and said, “Pencils keep going missing from the stockroom. It must be Juan Williams taking them. Y'know, because he’s black.”

      9 times out of 10, when someone leads off a statement with “I’m not a bigot”, they’re about to say something bigoted.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Say it isn't so...

      If I want to hear a racist opinion or viewpoint I will watch Fox news. On NPR, reporters should stick with FACTS. leave the opinions to the ppl who call in. If I said that I was afraid whenever I see black ppl on the same side of the street I would be a racist. The only ones complaining about his firing are people who agree with his racist remarks. Were Christians blamed when conservative republican Christian Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building? NO. If it's ok to blame all Muslims for what a few terrorists did then it's ok to blame all marines for what those few rapist murderers did. Right? WRONG! Are all Christians to blame for catholic pedophiles? Stop your hypocracy. Cowards

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • YOU are not me...

      See what happens when u hang around Fox news too long? . . You become a RACIST.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZ

      Why would Christians be blamed for Timothy McVeigh? He was neither a republican nor a Christian – from his own manifesto. That tired and wrong analogy just makes you look silly.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Urban Republican

      Williams has been working for NPR and Fox News for many years mainly praching the liberal to middle perspective on the Factor Show that Bill O'Reiley hosts. Now that he actually comes out and is honest with his feelings when he is around Muslims. What American isn't concerned, including moderate Muslim-Americans who can probably spot a a radical Muslim in Public. NPR is a Public Broadcasting Arm of the Government's funding for the Arts, but it's no secret that NPR on PBS is traditionally a liberal News organization. So who is calling the Kettle Black i.e. Mr. Williams. I'm an open-minded Republican with many liberal friends, and I had a Muslim roomate in college after fighting against Islamo-Facism when I was deployed iin Lebanon as part of the International Peace-Keeping Forces. My Iranian roomate was symotaniously enlisted in the Iran-Iraq War as a Medic, and I knew many of the Arab Leaders in the US, and worked with many different Arab Military while deployed in the Navy. From my experiences, as a Navy News Media Professional working with NPR and other media outlets, I think NPR are hypocrits for firing Juan Williams, in fact stupid. This is one of the reasons why Americans are turning against Obama and the DNC, when President Obama himself demonized Fox News, and refused to grant the only conservative Cabl News Channael in the world an interveiw. CNN, and many other liberal news media outlets in America screamed loud and clear to the Obama Administration that denying Fox News White House Anchor the First Ammendment Right to Freedom of Speech. Oddly enough, Obama continues to step on himself demonizing Fox News in his interveiw with Rolling Stone shortly after he fired the Commanding General in Afgahnistan for doing an interveiw with the same magizine.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. slag

    Like Juan with Muslims, when the lifeguard tells me there are sharks in the water, I don't wade in to see what type they are. Political correctness be damned

    October 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Good point. Political correctness tells us to put all logic aside and act stupidly in order to not hurt anyones feelings. PC not for me either.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • wasabiwahabi

      I'm not surprised by National Palestinian Radio, having been fed up with their self-loathing hypocrisy. It wasn't a bunch of Methodists who flew the planes into the Towers, Pentagon, or a field in PA.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      Using your logic then you don't go in any water were there are PERCH or MINNOWS present? Cause you won't see the sharks.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • slag

      Darrel-Based on your illogical response, you must be a liberal NPR member or Muslim.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joe

    If this idiot said anything bad about the fox fake news network or any of their phoney pundints like billo the clown lonesome roads beck or mancoulter(check out her adams apple?) he would be fired.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Is the left "really" this brain dead?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lisa

    It seems to be perfectly all right for Americans to belittle, humiliate and degrade Christians – but you better keep your mouth shut if your opinion concerns another religion. Where are the moderate Moslems???? Where are you??? Why don't you speak up and speak out????

    October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • DanW

      Yes! Silence is consent!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • APox

      They tried to speak up by building a community center and we saw how that went. And it's Muslims not "moslims".

      October 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      There's one in the cube next to me. He says you're an ID10T. Oh yeah he friggin from IRAN. Be here 20 years.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. barbara

    Juan Williams has long ago made a choice to be apart of the conservative circus that is Fox News. His comments were unprofessional, bigoted and irresponsible. How would a Muslim guest or writer feel in a serious interview with a journalist who thinks they are a threat simply because they are Muslim. It should be noted that many African Americans are Muslim as well so I hope Williams doesn't try to allege discrimination. The only racism here is his bigotry and narrow-mindedness. NPR did the right thing.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dave

      bigot
      Definition

      intolerant person: somebody with strong opinions, especially on politics, religion, or ethnicity, who refuses to accept different views
      [ Late 16th century. < French ]
      sound like the shoe fits you pretty good Barbara

      October 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
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