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. SUEPY

    One correction....Germans did not kill the jews,Hitlerand the Nazi's did and Hitler was not even German.....You must remember "Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim" I bet the people who knew the 9/11 highjackers before 9/11 thought they were nice guys too.....No way will I get on a plane,my choice,my life...too bad

    October 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PGV

    Mr. T, how can NPR edit his comments when they were made on Fox?!?

    Unfortunately, Juan Williams has been a Fox News puppet for years. He's their token black liberal. He was not considered an unbiased analyst or journalist to most, even prior to this remark.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MinnFinn

    Juan Williams lost whatever credibility he had when he joined Faux News. He shouldn't be surprised–you are known by the company you keep! NPR should have gotten rid of him earlier. NPR is still my primay source for objective news–they need our support, not condemnation!

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

      Well then I am sure that we finally get NPR's taxpayer handout taken away, you and all the liberal fans will be happy to make make it up during the weekly whining for dollars session they have. I will be happy to see NPR have to compete in the real world. Of course, they will simply have to change the name to Air America II.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. myintegrity5

    bill laid the foundation for that question in his remarks on the view, why wasn't he reprimanded for his comments that clearly outraged people?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      because Fox News has no journalistic standards and does not enforce the journalistic code of ethics. I don't know how they even get away with putting the "News" in "Fox News". They are an opinion outlet, heavily favoring a conservative point of view.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jerry

    I always liked Juan Williams for his intelligent comments. Now I like him even more. Shame on NPR.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lucy

    Like the O'Reilly fiasco on the View, this is another case of political correctness run amok. I watch Fox almost exclusively for news and commentary, and Juan has always been at the top of my favorite list because I find him to be so reasonable, thoughtful and professional even though he's sometimes too liberal for me. I don't listen to NPR so I don't know much about them, but they clearly aren't reasonable, thoughtful and professional. This is NPR's loss–any media outlet would be lucky to have Juan whether they're left, right or middle and I'm sure he'll have a better offer in no time.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Curtis Shanks

    It's funny to here these people saying that Fox is bias. So is CNN you morons. And by the way. I get really nervous on the subway when I see a muslim looking person getting on the train with a backpack ! Not a bigot, just their track record !

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      That's why you should get your news from multiple sources, preferably some in print, and make up your own mind.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mary B

    Freedom of speech is still freedom of speech....even if soros, chavez and obama have no use for it.......funding of OUR money should not be going to a closed minded station....let all of our congressmen know....

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Qazi

    When I see black people getting too close to me on the street "I get worried . I get nervous."How does that feel Juan?I would say to Juan, when you are on the natioal tv you have a reponsibility to watch out what you say.If it was coming out form an average guy from the street , I might be okay. But you are journalist should be more careful.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • efinn

      Why don't you ask Jesse Jackson about that? I seem to recall saying he feels relief if he is walking the street late at night, hears someone behind him, turns and sees it is some white guy, and not young blacks. Guess he's a evil racist.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Erick

    Willams is an idot! I am a white male. Can I say in national TV that when I am in the bus and a black guy is sitting next to me, you know, I watch my bag. If someone make a comment like that, he will immidiately be fired. Jesse Jackson and all those black activist will raise H..ll. And here is this guy make such a crazy remark. Of course, this is FOX news! wHAT ELESE DO YOU EXPECT?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Christopher Chase

    I find it interesting that there was no mention made in the story of CNN's firing of Rick Sanchez over comments he made about Jews and the media. Shirley Sherrod? Why is CNN avoiding the most obvious and appropriate comparison here?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      You're right! There is a double standard. Jews and Muslims are tearing us apart, here and around the globe. Because of Muslims and Jews we are going to have WW3 .

      October 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • efinn

      What should be obvious, even to you, is that CNN does not get taxpayer funding, they can fire who they want.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KAPA


    October 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Behebbak

    Clearly, NPR ascribes to the same twisted sense of PC that do Goldberg and Behar because there is "nothing" wrong with what Juan said on FOX. With the insane state of the world and the repeated attempts of Muslim martyr-wannabes to bring down U.S. airliners, how can anyone "not" feel on edge when placed in the situation Juan describes??? Personally, I hope Juan successfully destroys NPR by suing them blind. You're a great guy Juan, and you can do better.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jake

    You're right! There is a double standard. Jews and Muslims are tearing us apart, here and around the globe. Because of Muslims and Jews we are going to have WW3

    October 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • efinn

      And if they can find a way to leave us out of it...........I don't care.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wayne

    I listened to NPR news for years; depended on it. Not any more. I gave up on the mainstream media some time ago. The conservative press is just as bad. Time to try out the BBC again.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
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