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. rad

    The man has the right to say whatever he wants and you have the right to disagree with him, that is supposed to be the beauty (or the ugliness depending on your view) of living in a free society. sick and tired of being regulated by people who are offended by everything and try to take others rights to free speech away from them

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

      I guess you don't understand the way capitalism works. Most of us are "at will" employees. Say or do something your employer doesn't like and they can fire you. You have a right to speak. You don't have a right to work for a given employer.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SDFrankie

    The fewer venues Juan Williams has, the better I like it. Fox News is trash. Why would a self-respecting "journalist" appear on Fox News every Sunday, much less on O'Reilly? They wouldn't. But a trash journalist would. The comments pointing out what would happen if someone made the same statements about African-Americans are dead on. The fact that this hasn't even occurred to Williams tells you how deep those waters are. Not very.

    And while we're at it, why would anyone ask Sarah Palin what she thinks? The question is: What does she think with?

    October 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. In America

    The Muslims that killed 3000 + in a single morning on our own shores spoiled it. No one in their community is broadcasting the continuous message that 9-11 was wrong, 9-11 was wrong, we're sorry and condemn their souls for what they did. We do not speak for them. 9-11 was wrong and we stand with our American brothers and sisters. Sing it for 100 years and it won't change anything now. You missed your chance. I watched the bodies fall from the sky. Because you won't scream it from the roof tops, because you bomb our camps while you sing the Star Spangled Banner, because you serve as soldiers and shoot our service men in their bases there can be no peace until you openly chose a side and join the fight.

    This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with a whimper.

    T. S. Eliot

    October 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      And how about the deaths of nearly 100,000 Iraqi (Muslims) due to an US invasion ? And 4 million Iraqi refugees ?
      How about starting a Civil War in Somalia by surgical strikes and green lighting an Ethiopian invasion by the Bush Administration (2006). Recent History. Check out 2006 news stories from NY Times. Does that spoil anything for you ?

      October 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Boo BadNPR

    The same "leftist media" that has banned its employees from exercising their rights to attend the Jon Stewart rally on Oct. 30...what ever happened to "We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to
    tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." (Thomas Jefferson)

    October 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dab

    So now you cannot express your personal opinions?! Juan Williams is right – there aren't many non-Muslims out there who don't get a little nervous around Muslims. Ignore the obvious at your own peril – political correctness is ruining this country. The surest way to mediocrity is by trying to please everyone – and we are witnessing this at this very moment.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. youdontknowme

    Questions for reflection:
    If you are on a TV show representing a "news" organization (or on solely because you work for one), should your comments affect your credibility as a journalist?

    Will those who listen or watch journalists in this kind of setting validate their own beliefs because someone "famous" agrees with them?

    I lean pretty heavily toward the left, but as a former journalist I do not support him being fired. I think that there should be protocol in news organizations regarding these kinds of things. I also think journalists should avoid being "tapped" for their own beliefs in the media - kind of thought that was an unspoken rule. Why was he even on O'Reilly? Come on, man!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      Honestly it does make you wonder what he was doing on there anyway. I think its normal for people to wonder about the details of a big event like 9/11. They should keep an eye out for odd behavior no matter who is on the plane anyway.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Adrian Zupp



    October 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • SDFrankie

      That's three minutes of my life I'll never get back.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. b0bc4t

    He spoke of an irrational fear, and stated it as such. His opinion was spoken honestly, and because of the pressures of being politically correct, NPR threw him under the bus. He did not address any actions or speak evil of the religion, just that their presence made him uncomfortable, like some people have fears of crowds, animals, driving at night. It should not be a bellweather of his ability to report the news, but it was perceived that way, and his credibility and objectivity were tarninshed, and his work now carries an indelible mark ...... Are we using red paint to label HATERS today?

    This political corectness is ruining our country. Help us find our way back to sanity once more.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SDFrankie

    Come on, Juan! You sit there on the same set as Brit Hume Bill Kristol every Sunday and then you get all nervous because somebody in a head scarf gets on your plane? Talk sense, man!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kg

    Are we supposed to feel bad for this guy? If I said that while at work, I'd get fired too, and I'd have absolutely no legal recourse to defend myself. What he said was stupid, and he got what he got.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • E.C

      Why was is stupid? In the context of their converstation, if you heard the whole thing, it was a truthful account of his own feelings. He was on a show segment based on opinions. He didn't violate the principles of NPR nor where Juam Williams words bigoted.
      His firing was stupid not he man or his words.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      It was stupid because he wasn't just some guy in a coffee shop talking with a bunch of like-minded bigots. He was on a show that incites anger and prejudice in people, a show that consistently lies and propagandizes for profit and political gain. As a person, Williams is free to be as prejudiced as he wants to be. As a journalist, he can't. That's pretty simple. If you can't understand that, you're too far gone to really see two sides of anything. You're the perfect Fox sheep.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      The first sign of a weak argument is when the personal attacks begin.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. STEVE D

    I agree 100% with one of the post's on this board, the guy with the Trench Coat, the guy with the baggy pants, the
    Dude with a shaved head and nazi tatto's, have clearly labeled themselves, if your not paying attention you'll
    be caught up in a bad way with these type's of people, it's the path they choose. I was flying from LAX to Tucson
    one night, my friend in the opposite asile was sitting next to a Arab lookiing guy, who was sweating profusely,
    and was holding something in his hand, and couldn't sit still for a minute. I thought we were going to be that big
    flash in the sky any minute. I couldn't wait to get off that plane. Mr. William's... like i see things way ahead and not in
    front of our face's before it too late. I want to throw the 1st Haymaker not the other guy. This isn't about Black,
    White, Latino, Muslim, Asians etc. it's about the the obvious and being aware of your surroundings, case in point
    the guy on the plane, obviously their was something wrong with this guy, and i was fully aware of it. So i'll
    say this.... everytime i see white guys on the plane they make me nervous....does that make everybody feel

    October 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      The sad thing is he could have just been scared of flying, claustrophic, or forgot his deoderant. Still, everyone should keep an eye out for odd behavior anyway.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. scott

    NPR did not fire the other NPR host a few years ago aids comment.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Be specific please.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Andy

    NPR asks its journalist to be professionals and speak in a way that reflects well on the company. I don't think Mr. WIlliams is a bad person or an unrepentant bigot. However, he violated company policy and was fired for it. NPR – just like any other business – is well within its rights to do so.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JK

    No matter what political party you think is right, wake up, we no longer have freedom of speech in this country. Williams wasn't preaching hate. he made a statement and as a frequent flier, I am also uncomfortable with people dressed in the Muslin clothing. Of course, I'm really worried when I see a large person heading my direction, whom I'm afraid will set in the center seat next to me and will force me to lean in the aisle throughout the flight becoming a 'cart taget'.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      Mr. Williams has lost no right to free speech. His speech violated company policy. The company fired him. Mr. Williams is welcome to continue to speak as freely as he wishes. The first amendment doesn't protect an employee from the consequences of his/her free speech – it protects the right of a citizen to speak freely without government interference.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Don

    Islam is a religion of peace and the muslims will kill you to prove it!

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