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. russel arnold

    I think its a very responsible act by NPR. Imagine if the same person left the same comments for Jews or any other sect. I wounder what Sarah Palins would not be saying. Attacking any ethnic Sect should not be tolerated at all. Lets grow up.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jay

    Most Muslim people who come to the USA and other Western nations want to get away from the problem. However, not all of them. A very few come to commit terrorist acts. Westerners are justifiably paranoid. The simple fact is that a portion of the Islamic culture wants to wipe out everyone else, and would be happy to do so. Besides biblical reasons, Westerners have stolen their land for centuries and they aren't happy about that. But perhaps the biggest reason is their family structure and everything about Western culture promotes destroying their way of life: subjugation of women/girls. They are angry and activist because they don't want to end up like Western men, required to de-objectify women and treat them as equals (or perhaps superiors). This basic conflict, beside atoning for the land theft, is not going to go away without earth-shattering events.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Freedom1776

    SOROS!! SOROS!!! SOROS!!! I smell the currency manipulator, hypocritical billionaire liberal (in all things not affecting his life) at play here! Keep donating to NPR Soros and try to silence your opponents! How'd you make money again while Nazis occupied Europe and you were young?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brother John of Dallas

    There's a difference between being a bigot and just being honest about one's own perceptions about others. Here, Juan was just being open and honest about how he felt. I don't think he would advocate discrimination against Muslims, so NPR looks like it is far, far to the Left. If Juan had said something similar about Christians, I doubt he'd be fired.

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

    Mr. Williams had every right to voice his opinion...and NPR had every right to fire him. It's not a violation of his 1st Amendment rights; that only applies to government interference.

    What matters here is that Mr. Williams, by saying what he said, damaged his credibility. I always enjoyed listening to him, but now any analysis or reporting he did for NPR would be tainted. I could no longer trust his impartiality. I say this as a former broadcaster (26 years).

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

      His analysis of plane safety is tainted? Which analysis are you talking about?

      October 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Onwee

    Islam is not a race, it's a belief system that has been used explicitly by terrorists to justify their actions. Muslim terrorists don't happen to be Muslim, they use their religion explicitly as a rationale. That does not mean all or most Muslims are terrorists, but it is major qualitative difference in the debate that must be acknowledged by those who attempt to compare Christianity or race on equal terms.

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

      Didn't the 9/11 terror group state US troops in Saudi Arabia, then sanctions on Iraq and Palestinian occupation as their reasoning for 9/11 ? Thus making it more political rather than religious ?

      October 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Freedom1776

    End all tax breaks and funds for NPR now! Let Soros fund it completely! Boycott any companies that support NPR, MSNBC, etc. Reactions also happen from the silent majority, the Left and Radicals don't have a monopoly on political action any more!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Yikes! Give my regards to "Jack", "Johnny" and your "Old Grandad" too! Maybe closing time should come a little earlier for you tonight!

      October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ben Cooper

    This firing would never have happened if Barack Obama were president.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. KTinCA

    People, remember – Juan William is a NEWS ANALYST, not a reporter (he has done reporting in the past but his position for both NPR and Fox has been that of analyst. The NPR CEO said as much this morning.

    Analysts are paid to GIVE THEIR OPINION. Fox pays Juan Williams to analyze from a liberal point of view. What about Kieth Olberman and Rachel Maddow – they are not journalists – they are liberal analysts and we understand that when we watch them. In our day of 24-hour news – the lines are very blurry – but I believe that Juan is the most even-handed analyst I've heard.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve Bashon

    Well it looks like the folks at NPR are so afraid of Muslims that they are firing people who exercise free speech.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TC

    Too bad for NPR. What a stupid thing to do. I will no longer be listening. I guess freedom of thought, speech and expression are not part of NPR's brand. My best to Mr. Williams, I will now be watching him on FOX even though FOX news turns my stomach. I hope Mr Williams sues NPR for their assets and I hope he wins. Good luck, Mr Williams.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bill

    He said "I get worried, I get nervous". It certain was not politically correct and certain exacerbates the problem but he was expressing his personal opinion. If NPR demands SUCH scripted behavior of their employees somethings gone afoul there. The same goes for banning employees from attending the Rally for Sanity on their own time. Geese guys, corporate image vs personal freedom much! For the record, I'm (was) a fan of NPR and not of Williams in general.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ben Cooper

    If there were no Muslims, we wouldn't have these problems.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. duke

    I fear white men in suits!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. buddy

    First amendment comments don't apply here, wing nuts. He had every right to speak out like he did, and NPR had every right to fire him for it. Just because you have the right to free speech doesn't mean you won't have to pay for the consequences for what you say. All that the first amendment says is that the GOVERNMENT won't retalliate. It doesn't make any claims about how private citizens will act as long as they are within the boundaries of law.

    Also, wing nuts, NPR has finally exposed themselves to be the liberals they are??? Are you serious?!? DUH!!! OF COURSE NPR leans way to the left. Everyone who has listened to it for a quarter second flipping past their frequency while doing 80 m.p.h. on the Pulaski Skyway knows that. They have to maintain their image just like any other broadcaster. NPR may be non-profit, but they do have a customer base to which they must cater. Like any other radio station, no listeners, no radio station. That goes for NPR, too. They had no choice but to fire him.

    This guy pulled a Rick Sanchez. Something slipped out of his mouth that shouldn't have if he wanted to keep his job.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
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