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. Milo

    My one question is, since a person's garb seems to be the deciding factor in the prejudicial stereotyping conversation, what was the composition of Timothy McVeigh's wardrobe?

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

      If there was one of distinction, you know people would be all over that rational or not.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Phillip Bias


    October 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Just another citizen

    It's impossible to separate out those who will get fired for their comments and those who won't. Reporters daily do interviews with terribly slanted questions on all the stations. They interject their opinions this way daily. Yet the networks and stations thrive on it and no doubt encourage it.

    Yes, I would be a bit unnerved if I was on a plane and someone nearby fit the "profile" of who we've seen attacking as terrorists. And yet, by the same token, I live in ATL and no, I'm not unnerved if in a place with all African-Americans (as someone brought up on an earlier comment).

    It is human nature to feel this way when you are the only person in a room of different people. And for most of us, until the majority of good muslims stand up against the supposed very few bad ones, we'll probably all feel a little uncomfortable.

    Whether NPR should have fired Juan or not... I do not believe they should have. I think they lost an excellent reporter and a balanced one who was not afraid to represent NPR even on FoxNews. NPR NEEDS to be represented on Fox. And on CNN. And NBC.

    Believe me, there is enough bias to go around. No shortage, not even on CNN. Heck, not even in my own life, unfortunately. We all should be working towards being better.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just another citizen

      And honestly, has anyone bothered to listen to morning radio in awhile? I'm not talking NPR, I'm talking about the stuff that is mainstream and pop. I know there is a whole different standard there, but for goodness sakes, those folks reach our kids and teens and college age. Believe me, there is zero censorship there and 100% tolerance for anything terrible that you can say out loud.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. turban

    Guess what! So far, all terrorists have been muslims.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just another citizen

      you noticed that too....

      October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      Really? Are you that dumb? You are very selective in your definition of 'terrorism.' There have been bombings of mosques, attempted bombings of mosques, murders of health care providers, and Timothy McVeigh to name just a handful.

      Your bigotry defines you.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mario

    Look...NPR is a little minor league good for nothing leftist commie loving bunch of liberal morons...so the guy got fired for telling the truth...it still shows who the real racists are and everyone wants to look the other way.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      Mario: a crazy, right-wing, Juan Williams-style, Fox News lying bigot. Of course you like him and Fox.

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

      I'm confused – are you suggesting that because he told the truth we could tell he is really racist?

      October 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nancy Miller

    Can't anyone say it like it is? Yes, people are apprehensive when they travel. We are living the age of terrorism and everyone is suspect. But please, enough with the political correctness. Is this not the USA–land of free speech? And, an individual should not lose his/her job for expressing an opinion. After all, would-be journalists are doing just that on every media outlet.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kd

    Good riddance! As someone else posted elsewhere, if Williams were a white man saying he was nervous around Black people, he would rightly be fired. It's high time to point out the overt racism and bigotry Fox pushes.

    And I'm sick to death of the conservative 'political correctness' whine. Whenever a conservative does or says something highly offensive and are called on it, rather than conservatives having any honest response to defend the violator, they instead attack the messengers and the victims. It's disgusting. It's sick. It's childish. And far too many people use that insidious and horrid phrase.

    October 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just another citizen

      Somehow we are all so focused on "tolerance" that we become totally intolerant to the fact that we all have real things that actually do bother us and we all should be able to admit that. Juan wasn't boasting about how he felt, he was a bit humble in saying it like it bothered him that he felt that way.

      It bothers me that I feel that way also. I suspect many people including myself are constantly wrestling with these feelings.

      But in the process both sides, far left and far right, are equally terrible. I can't have a decent political conversation with either side. And that is amazing to me here in America.

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

      It depends on the position of the person saying it. The NPR ceo told him to keep it between himself and his therapist. Why isn't this person fired as well?

      I think its more a disservice to bash everyone wanting to discuss their concerns and work through their issues, than it would be to have a honest discussion about those concerns and whether they're rational or not. Getting nearly run over by a BMW and then being nervous when you see a BMW coming your way isn't unnatural, and doesn't make you defective it makes you human. The good news is we can learn to deal with it, but its a lot harder when you have a parade of people kicking you every time you mention BMW.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GeeWizz

    Hey CNN, If you won't post my comment and let me participate I will no longer read your Website. Bye!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ready

    What a disgrace....I hope Fox hires him full time...He would be a great addition to their show...

    October 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      Sure. Williams is very good at throwing out the right-wing lies and propaganda. A perfect fit.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gadsden

      They did he is getting a $2 million, 3 year contract.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ash

    Jeff Goldblum on point!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GLW

    I agree with b0bc4t. During Iraq war in 2003 Muslims beheaded Americans that made me very angry while the Muslims remained silence. I did not hear their protest against beheadings. I do agree with Juam Williams' comment when I was on the plane and saw Muslims that made me very nervous I cannot help that. I did not hear their protest about the beheadings since 2003. Since Juan is out and I will not watch Fox News on Sunday with Chris Wallace. Sorry! Lucifier feverishly loves that channel and of course, Republicans and Tea Partiers! Remember Jesus loves Liberalism!

    October 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      I heard plenty of Muslims protest. You just didn't hear it through your right-wing media sources who wanted war and wanted to pour gas on the hatred fire you so easily fall prey to.

      My god, the ignorance and bigotry from so many commenters here.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just another citizen

      I'm sad that kd assumes that anyone posting on here is a right-wing extremist. Folks, we've got to get past these extremes and get on to the real world.

      Really. NPR should be represented on all the channels (Right, Left, Unidentifiable) if they are going to really be a good "public" station. I like them and want them to be on all stations to provide the public voice.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    Good riddance! Such bigots belong in the temple of doom and hate, not on NPR

    October 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. momo

    what exactly is "muslim garb"??

    October 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    These hateful people are not true Christians. Jesus will renounce them in a second.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tamars

    I don't understand why this man was fired. It was not HIS program, it was HIS experience - and he verbalized a sentiment millions of us experience when people hide behind clothing and masks. I'm sure people in that type of clothing feel nervous around us who are NOT dressed that way. His boss seems to have made a knee-jerk reaction instead of responfing to a situation.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Sorry – But Williams' represented himself as an "NPR Journalist" – he broke NPRs 'code of ethics' multiple times and was finally FIRED!!! Too bad so sad...

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