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. Montana

    Good for NPR, Juan Williams slant belongs to "Fake News" with the rest of the failed political candidstes Palin, Huckabee, or should I say the 2012 GOP Presidential contenders. They are not racist they are just the good old boys. They are the bunch that keep saying that everyong should be scared of BLACKS, scared of ASIANS, sacred of LATINOS, scared of WOMEN, scared of the GAYS and now they are scared of Muslims. So long Johnny,don't let the door hit you. I love that you went crying to "Fake News" and played the victim card, I guess its another "it is a high-tech lynching".

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

      Say, why don't you move to Riyadh or Tehran and spout your view there in those police states? Muslims are going to start World War III. In the meantime, just watch the lawsuit heading NPR's way.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. andrew

    Juan Williams must also file lawsuit to NPR.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fed Up

    Shame on NPR!! Juan was one of the best journalists they had. Mucho integrity. I just deleted NPR from my car and house programmed radio channels. I have watched NPR (which used to be a great program years ago) become PC fascists and so extreme left and unbalanced that they may as well hire Ward Churchill to replace Juan. NPR–you lost me and any future donations. I hope the feds stop tax-payer funding you, and shut you down.

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

    Juan Williams tell the truth of American muslim terrorists and world muslim terrorists. 90 % Americans support him. He must file lawsuit to NPR.

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

    Article fails to mention that the head of NPR, Viviam Shiller, say that Williams needs to see psychatrist for his views

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

      Yeah, I thought that was interesting too.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • E.C

      She only apologized immediately afterwards to save face. But she meant what she said...she's quite the character that one.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jpof arlingon

    Does NPR get government funds? If yes, then these funds should be withheld until NPR gives Juan Williams his job back. NPR fired this man for not being politicaly correct and that is against his right of freedom of speech.

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

      Bingo. Itll be interesting to see if the black civil rights community comes to his defense.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Angie

    NPR has shown its true colors when in reality it should be transparently colorless. Therefore, funding from taxpayers should be eliminated. We are all paying for NPR to be on the air. They work for us, not the other way around. People should write to their congress representatives in regard to this issue.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tod Policandriotes

    The fact that NPR fired him is utterly ridiculous. He has the right to feel a certain way just like anyone else. I will say this...when I go anywhere and see muslims dressed up in their costumes I cannot help but give them a second look because you just do not know for sure whether these muslims are peaceful or not. Every person has the right to feel however they want and the only thing that can change this is the muslim community taking control and weeding out the extremists just like we weed out crime. Also, when I am driving through a bad Chicago neighborhood I keep my eyes on the people because we know that anyone could be a bad person in those areas and may rob you or kill you. What gives anyone the right to tell others how they should feel about a certain race or religion based on their own past experiences. The fact is that the moment you become oblivious to the possibility that there is one bad person in a group, you stand the chance of being put in harm yourself from that one bad person. So where do we draw the line? I just keep my eyes on all people when I go to an airport or anywhere, it has become a fact of life, get use to it and stop being such little babies you politically correct people.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • readthebook

      you should stay home, watch tive and tickle the hair in your navel.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tod Policandriotes

      Awareness is the key here, observation of your surroundings. Those who do not observe their surroundings do not have a chance in an emergency situation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being aware of your own surroundings, those who have been in war or places where it is essential to be aware know this simple fact. It is not paranoia, lol, just common sense to just be aware of your surroundings. You cannot change the experiences that people have in their lives, maybe he should have phrased it in a different way to comfort the politically correct from crawling out of their skin.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Randy

    Were the hijackers wearing "Muslim Garb" on 9/11 ? Or were they wearing everyday clothing to blend in ? What Juan Williams was essentially saying that everyone should beware of people wearing religious garb, which is wrong.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    He didn't say anything out of line. If you draw a cartoon you get death threats from the Muslim world. Maybe NPR should try being American in America.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dawn

    Everyone's hung up on the race thing, but they missed the other very, very important point here!

    "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."

    That is exactly what needed to be done to be in line with a news source of INTEGRITY. There is NO room for opinions in real news! Once there's an opinion, it's an opinion, opinions aren't facts, and if it's not facts, then its' NOT NEWS.

    He went way way way below a set standard when he went on such a trashy show like O'Reilly's, and they distanced themselves appropriately.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • dieselbug

      Precisely. If there is opinion, it isn't news – it's opinion. Fox News should be sued for false advertising – their programming is no more news than HBN is secular . . . .

      October 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ben Cooper

    You know, I'd feel nervous if there were NPR personnel on a plane.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. WhiteKong78

    Left VS Right... You're all sheep. Thanks for ruining the country.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kashif ali

    "Where are all these Moderate Muslims we here about? "

    I'm right here... but if you want me to protest Osama Bin Laden? For what?

    What will that prove. Me calling him a jacka** every where I go isn't enough, you want me to gather with a group and formally protest it? Other than make you feel nice inside, what does it do?

    When muslim governments do ill things, they get protested by muslims, but protesting a terrorist. wow what a waste of time. In case you didn't know, they already have an army or 10 after him.

    Now about extremism in general.. how bout you go visit a few mosques and actually talk to average muslims... they are denouncing and fighting in their own ways everyday.... go learn something from a source other than jihadwatch.com

    October 21, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dieselbug

    When are people going to realize that his First Amendment right were NOT violated? The government did not stifle his speech nor punish him for it. He was fired from his position at NPR – not the government or any part of it.
    What he said was dumb and may not have merited his termination but I disagree with the notion that this is acceptable because "Christians" are denigrated in the media. Two wrongs don't make a right!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geez

      What are you talking about? You are right this doesnt have anything to do with Christians... Dont know why you brought it up. This has all to do with NPR getting goverment money.

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