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. DisgustedAmerican

    Freedom of speech, it seems, is a "RIGHT" for only the "WRONG" people. Wake up America before we lose everything.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John

    He spoke the truth and he gets canned. I am done with NPR. Clearly they are a communist organization that does not value freedom. How many other groups (besides radical Muslims) have flown planes into buildings, killing thousands? How many other groups want non Muslims dead? Hitler? If I got on a plane with someone with a Swastika tattooed on his head I would feel the same way as getting on a plane with someone in Muslim garb

    October 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I guess if anyone tells the truth they get fired for it. We all know who flew the planes in the twin towers and it wasn't mother Theresa. I'm sick of having to be so political correct when those who are destroying our society have no tolerance.. If you don't believe there views they kill you.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      go read the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) code of ethics page. NPR has to uphold these principles with its journalists, or they will just turn into another Fox News.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    Hi up here in Canada we have the CBC who say they are about freedom and free speech. But once you take them up on that poof you are also fired. Up here CBC don't ever sayvthe word terrorist or terrorism because it might offend someone. But if you want to rip Christians or any other religion creed color its fair game. We the taxpayers pay for the CBC and are tired of it's crap. So Americans don't worry we have the same left wing crap here to

    October 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. KAPA

    The poster who said Juan should sue NPR into oblivion is spot on!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. manuel

    The 911 attackers were wearing regular american clothing. No robes or head dresses and they didn't pray in the terminal before hand either. What a bunch of racist WASP A** Bunnies.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jake

    Jews and Muslims are tearing us APART. Because of their unrest, we are in all these wars and there is a problems all around the globe. Muslims and Jews are going to take us to WW3.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GoFaster58

    Juan's remarks were right on the money. Yes, Muslims are stereotyped just by their dress and look. I see it every day where I work. Juan is a smart man and will bounce back. It's a shame that NPR didn't even give him a chance to answer to their charges. Hopefully he'll be on FOX even more now perhaps with his own prime time show.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. James

    (((scoff!!))) NPR should also fire that arrogant SOB Bill O'Reilly for making anti-Muslim remarks. How is that fair for them to fire Juan Willams!? Ohhh, wait – let me guess, Bill is WHITE and Juan is HISPANIC. Silly me!! Of course... Juan has to go and Bill stays! That's probably why. I don't understand it! I think Bill O'Reilly should be FIRED too and gone too for good! Who needs a rude, self-centered, arrogant commentator on television who constantly interrupts his guests on his show??

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

      O'Reilly doesn't work for NPR. He works for Fox.

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

    I'm a fan of juan williams but he's wrong on so many levels!
    1)This stereotyping has been used against blacks and latins for years,
    2)His(juan) argument makes my first example excusable,
    3)When will the world be allowed to be scared of white men in suits??
    Your wrong juan for carrying THEIR torch of hate!!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robby

    How's NPR listener numbers?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Roger

    I'm so sick of people hiding behind the term "PC". When you use the term "PC", 9 times out of 10 what you're saying is "I'd like to have a right to express offensive stereotypes or others to have a right to express them for me." What you're basically saying is "I want the right to express my bigotry."

    Well you have that right. It's called the first amendment (as long as you're representing only yourself and not a company like this man was). But why don't you just call it what it is??? Bigotry. It's not PC gone overboard. PC gone overboard is the school that canceled Mother's Day activities because one of the kids had two fathers and would have felt left out.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZ

      No, PC is a movement that chooses its own definitions of what is appropriate and what is not. What people are allowed to discuss, what words they're allowed to use, and how they're supposed to think and feel about certain things. This is not freedom from bigotry, it's unrepresented, unaccountable mind control. Would we like to be more inoffensive? Sure, but who gets to make that call, and what power will they yield? I'm not willing to relinquish my judgment and thinking over to any movement that has a distinct self interest.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lucy

      Juan wasn't representing NPR when he was on Fox, he was appearing as a Fox commentator.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kathryn Stratton

    Regarding 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 is not a forum for free speech. It is public radio, and a news organization. Reproting news has lost its definition. Opionion is NOT news people!! Where are the jounalists that deliver news, not opinion??

    October 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steve

    Worth restating: The truth is ALMOST ALL MUSLIMS ARE NOT TERRORISTS. And that MUSLIM TERRORISTS LOOK LIKE NORMAL CITIZENRY WHEN IN ACTION. Therefore the whole point is that Juan was openly admitting his own personal bias – knowingly – which is a violation of his contract since he was doing so in the media.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jimbo jones

    None of this silly political rhetoric matters. We are all destined for the same end and we will meet it whether or not we are liberal, Christian, Muslim, black, white, whatever. Everyone in this country needs to stop worrying about everyone else and start worrying more about their own problems.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dashabi

    Saying a truth, how dare were you!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dashabi

      This is America, you got to pay for what you say

      October 21, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
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