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. suebee53

    Why can't reporters say what they feel? He was not at work/NPR-why interview them at all if they are going
    to sugarcoat what they say? Too much political correctiveness...check out the poll–81% said he should not have
    been fired.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Because mate, sadly they are afraid to hurt the feelings of muslims. I love muslims, I have many friends that practice it. However this is crazy. Saying ohh we have free speech but if its hurtful to you we will do everything within our power to get rid of the one saying it. So you see, all muslims won. Even the evil ones did this week, because the more our country finds limiting the rights, that make us who we are, more acceptable we bring ourselves closer to their level. They dont even have to harm us or do an act of terrorism anymore. They say jump we say how high. Its odd to me, they let a preacher professing hate of the muslims on every news agency to spell out his hatred, and defended him on its free speech. Yet they fire a man that is supposed to question things, supposed to do what he did.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don

    "...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."

    Hey, so do I. I hope I don't get fired.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Penny

      As long as you keep it to yourself, you'll be fine. The last thing anyone wants is to have a candid discussion about this sort of thing. The marketplace of ideas has given way to pollitical correctness that is defined by a select few. Used to be that if you did something hateful, you were deemed a mean person. These days, if you even discuss a controversial topic, even if you are a Mother Teresa II, you are called insensitive, shouted down, and berated. You're lucky if you aren't called a racist. Very lucky. Which, of course, simply makes people want to quit trying or caring. True bigotry has been watered down to mean anything. Which is a slap in the face to the people who actually lived under Jim Crow and similar regimes. The PC among us attack anyone for what they say, not how they live or what they do. They think they know everything about a person based on the words they use.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. David Whitwell

    Good! The man is not intelligent.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben Cooper

      But, clearly, you are. Why, I'll bet not a shred of doubt about your personal safety would enter your mind if you boarded a flight out of London to Washington carrying fifty bearded primitives holding Korans.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeaBigots Suck

      @Ben. Its time t crawl back under that rock.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • E.C

      Have you really heard Juam Williams speak or read ANY of his articles or books....guess not by your comment.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      No Ben because the likelihood of even one of them being a terrorist is less then a lighting strike or a wing falling off. We hand the terrorists a tremendous (!) victory when we start fearing/blaming all Muslims. That is exactly their goal and we're playing right into their hands.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • coolair1

      If I were a muslim and I were on a mission to blow up a plane why would I wear muslim garb anyway? Remember 9/11? None of the perpetrators wore anything that resembles what "poor" Juan Williams is afraid of. They were educated and dressed in western clothing. Though Juan is an analyst on TV and NPR, you would think he would have more depth to to allay his fragile fears.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Stephen in Bedford, TX

    NPR's firing of Juan Williams is not about "liberal media vs. conservative media", nor is it an issue of free speech. Mr. Williams is a reporter and his firing has more to do with the perception of bias in the newsroom. The next time Mr. Williams reports on Muslim affairs, presumably on Fox News, the listener will have to wonder how "fair and balanced" the subject was treated.
    Personally, I feel that Mr. Williams had been hanging around the Fox newsroom too long and it clouded his objectivity.
    If Fox News had the journalistic integrity of NPR and CNN, in their termination of Rick Sanchez's contract, Glenn Beck would find himself in the unemployment line along with his colleagues

    October 21, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • reveille

      You are absolutely right. As a former marketing director at a newspaper (a subsidiary of the Washington Post), I understood bias. Everyone – even those on the business side – was prohibited from posting election signs on their own property. We knew the difference between the role of a reporter and that of a columnist; the distinction of news and commentary. Having just retired from a founding NPR affiliate, all I can say about Juan is he forgot what he represented. I fear for the state of journalism and our country.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Randy

    CNN and MSNBC are just as biased as Fox, just as most newspapers are. Juan Williams just said what everyone feels. And why? Because these terrorists have continuely said that they plan on continuing these terrorist attacks. There is nothing that we have seen in our time to compare these attacks to. If moderate Muslims were more vigilant and adamant about these continue terrorist attacks, they would stop. Open your eyes to what is going on.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DAVID

    The bottom line is all part of sucking up to OBAMMA. It will only stop in 2 years when he is thrown out office

    October 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Doc

    To Stepahn in Bedford- from the sound of things unemployment is something you know a lot about. Buffoon

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Melissa

    looks like some people need a to back to school for a history lesson...i beginning to think our school systems have failed us. I have never read a more crappy debate then whats above

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. readthebook

    so, why not stop all "who are in Muslim garb" from going through the security. no one will be afraid and we will all be safe. WRONG!!!! None of the damned 19 were in Muslim garb.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben Cooper

      All Muslims should be thrown out of civilized countries and sent back to their bloodthirsty countries of origin.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MIKE

    Here's something from the Quran which dumb, NPR following Americans need to read.

    "Fight those who do not beleive in Allah or the Last Day, nor cling to that which has been forbidden by Allah and his Messenger or do not aknowledge the releigion of truth (Islam) even if they are people of the book. They must pay "Jizya" (basically a fine) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued."

    That's right folks! If they had their way YOU christians, jews, hindus, etc, would be fined for not bowing down to Mecca all day. We are falling for the agenda b.s which the "politcally correct" crowd like the NPR advocate. I don't know much about Juan Williams but I do know this – I don't want to be around a bunch of people stuck in the 15th century. I don't want my children around them. I don't want to live around them.....and I don't want to get on a plane with them. I don't want to go into Costco and see them.

    Racist? A Bigot? Not really. I have no problem with jews, blacks, chinese, latinos, asian indian hindus, sikhs, catholics, etc, but the majority of those that follow that archaic prejudiced religion called Islam, the more they need watching and we should ignore the bleeding heart woo-woo's in NPR and withold ANY and ALL contributions to NPR or Public Televison. I hope Williams sues NPR and puts them into bankruptcy.

    I was born in the UK in London. The area where I once lived now has arabic street names IN ARABIC!. Worse, those that live there now (95% muslims) have turned it into the toilet from whence they came. It was once a Jewish area (the East End of London) for over 100 years + but I didn't see any Hebrew names taking the place of English in the 40 years I lived there. BTW, I'm not Jewish and I happen to be an atheist but I recognize a dangerous religion when I see it.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben Cooper

      Ah, yes, the writings of the Koran established by Mohammed in his attempt to set up a Muslim Mafia. Sort of like a protection racket. Either join up or pay up. I mean to say, what intelligent person would ever consider this vicious, vindictive thug a prophet? Go out and kill someone today is his mantra unless he kisses my ass!

      October 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      There are many similar writings mispresented from our bible too. Nothing but rightwing propaganda.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      VERY well said.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kendall

    Talking points, he was fired for not sticking to talking points. NPR doesn't pay him or he wasn't there for his opinion, he had talking points to stick to. He didn't, he's fired

    October 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. andrew

    Juan Williams tell the truth of American muslim terrorists and world muslim terrorists. 90 % Americans support him.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rachael

    Freedom of speech. Not in America. It's dead. It's all about PC.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sayed

    What if claim that whenever i see a black person at night, i am scared, implemeting that since a minority of Black people are robbers, or gang bangers or durg dealers ect. EVERY BLACK PERSON THAT I SEE AT NIGHT, I AUTOMATICALLY PRESUME THAT HE/SHE IS EITHER A ROBBER, GANG BANGER and/or DRUG DEALER....!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      Then you'd be Mr. Rev Jesse Jackson who admitted as much to being relieved that the footsteps he heard behind him, turned out to be white kids.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well

      If you claimed then I guess you would 100%, without a doubt, correct

      October 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well

      ^Correction, I meant to say "not correct" funny how that one little word changes the whole sentence. Jeez

      October 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martin

      Then thats your opinion. Say what you want. Its a free country.....right?

      October 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Keith

    I do not get nervous. If they jumped up and started causing a scene I might. But that's not about their garb, that's about their actions. For that matter, if someone in "hill billy" dress (whatever that might be) or "white trash dress" or even "business suit" dress jumped up and made a scene, I might get nervous. But holding Muslims accountable for 9/11 is wrong. Hold the terrorists accountable. Terrorists can be from anywhere. It just happens these were Muslim and their plan caused a lot of devastation.

    Do you remember the Oklahoma City bombing? That was one of our "so called" "own". Do I get nervous when I see a white middle aged man driving a truck? No I don't.

    I refuse to live in fear. And I refuse to hold the many accountable for the actions of the few.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • youdontknowme

      Nicely put.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • russell

      We are all humans with human reactions. Like Mr. Williams, if I saw a white guy wearing a KKK robe board my flight, as a black, I would be somewhat apprehensive.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      @youdontknowme – thanks

      @russel – A person with a KKK robe belongs to a hate organization (or at least they are saying they belong) and to despise them for that would be logical. But if someone boarded with simply a white robe and you despised them, you're off your rocker.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
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