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. Brandon

    Haha, how the hell does someone work for NPR and Fox News at the same time, anyways? Split personalities?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. slag

    Freedom of speech only applies if you have liberal views?

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

      Yes...I mean no...wait a minute I am confused by your question.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      Freedom of speech does not apply to keeping your job as a journalist on NPR after making unwise comments about Muslims making him nervous on a plane. He should have known better.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • slag

      Geeky-The majority of Americans feel the same way about boarding a plane loaded with Muslims. Your politically correct take on the issue is just that and nothing more.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      Yes, slag, you're right, I will honestly say thoughts like that have crossed my mind, but I'm not going to go into my place of employment and make remarks to that effect because if someone is offended, they could report me to HR and I could lose my job. And if I'm a journalist for any news organization, I'm certainly not going to say it on air...it was poor judgment, and unfortunately, he's held to a higher standard than you and I.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. May

    That's okay. NPR has to do what it has to do. So do I.
    I just fired NPR, won't listen or watch them ever again.
    Last I looked, our journalists didn't make up 911 – they have bravely covered the news everywhere around the globe, but when they show their humanism and express what's on our minds, then they are fired for it.
    I had no choice but to fire NPR. It's in my rules of what I can watch without barfing.

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

      You WATCH your radio???

      October 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. FortSumter

    We hear about all these moderate Muslims who are outraged about 9/11, Fort Hood shooter, and other attacks, but we never see them protest or stand up against extremism. I have never seen reports of mass protests in the streets in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordon or Egypt over radical Islam and these countries are supposed to be our friends. Yet some small town preacher with a flock of 20 people wants to burn a few Muslim holy books and the Islamic world is in up roar!

    Where are all the Moderate Muslims in the world? Hell you can not even bring a Blackberry into Saudi Arabia, let alone a Bible. Turkey a NATO member treats it's remaining Christian population the ones they have not killed, deported, or run off like second class citizens. Get your facts straight people

    October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • FatSean

      The moderate Americans against invading Iraq were shouted down by cowards.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • FortSumter

      We did protest because we voted the majority of jokers out of office who were for the Iraq war. We are now pulling our Army out of Iraq and hopefully they will be able to govern themselves and prosper.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. slag

    So NPR's new slogan is "You are either with us, or against us"
    No room here for independent thinking. Lockstep, Lockstep, Lockstep.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      no, you're either a serious journalist, or you make bigoted remarks about muslims on another network and get fired.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • slag

      Geeky-How is stating the obvious bigoted? Did you even see the entire context of what he said or are you relying on the snippet that NPR used to fire him.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      Even if the comment in it's context might be construed as bigoted or offensive, a journalist has crossed the line. Journalists as bearers of the public's trust in their integrity are held to a higher standard, it's part of their job.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gary

    Sorry NPR I think you got this one all wrong.
    I have heard much worse things said right here at my own job about all different ethnicities not that it’s right however there has to be some other recourse than to fire everyone who misspeaks or has unpopular opinions.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. duke

    He should have been fired,for carrying that ol jim crow hatred torch!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jjb22

    It seems to me he was commenting more on the psychological association between muslims and terrorism rather than the reality of those groups. He was describing a feeling of anxiety. It is a fact that he experiences this feeling, NOT speculation.

    He did not say that all muslims are terrorists, nor did he try to justify his anxiety by suggesting that random muslims on airplanes are likely to be terrorists. He should not be fired for stating the fact that sometimes he feels anxiety, whether its causes are realistic or not.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marie M

      I agree with you and wish that others could rationalize the situation this way. Too bad so many people ou there will take the wrong way.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Marie M

    He will be fine. I am sure Fox news will hire him and pay him a lot more that NPR ever could. Too many people feel the same way as he does and they sympathise. It is not that we are all racist but we all saw a bunch of Muslim fanatics posted on our TVs after 911 and it is inevitable that we feel a little uncomfortable seeing muslins decked out in their garb getting on the plane with us. Sorry if this offends anyone but no one can deny that they have ever felt this way before. He was being honest and sincere, nothing wriog with that... in my opinion.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • geekgirl42

      You might be right about Juan Williams speaking for a lot of people's fears. But he's a journalist on the air, he's supposed to report the news and be unbiased. His comments were unprofessional at best.

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

      Geeky-It's a political opinion show and he stated his opinion.......period

      October 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JH

    Please, no more uninformed references the "First Amendment" relating to this. Do you get your information about the Bill of RIghts from Christine O'Donnell?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gary

    He earned it; this firing was a long time coming.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cityslicker

    I never have cared much for this mans stance on (most) issues. That said, I thought we lived lived in a society where we could freely voice our opinion even if it goes against the current stream of "popular wisdom" without retribution?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • FatSean

      Your employer can fire you for almost any reason he likes. This is what happened here. 1st amendment promises the government won't restrict your speech. It doesn't promise that your employer won't.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • cityslicker

      FatSean: That for queuing me in to the letter of the law but... even in a totalitarian regime an individual can "voice" his opinion and then be taken to a gulag. So what's the difference between a democracy and ... oh, we don't have gulags, right.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • cityslicker

      FatSean: "Thanks" for queuing me in.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. duke

    So we should ALL fear white men in suits!!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tim

    Eric Holder said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to talking frankly about race. It also applies to religion and culture. People should be allowed to have frank discussions, to help probe our internal fears and try to find solutions. Every human being naturally harbors fears, prejudices. Admitting them and examining them should provoke thought and questions, not condemnation.

    This is reactionary, and not critical thought. Please, can we raise the overall intelligence of our society?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FatSean

    I know how Juan feels.

    Americans wearing nationalistic garb and carrying guns make me nervous.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Fat

      When I see you enter a buffet line before I do I get nervous I wont get to eat

      October 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
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