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. heresme

    It seems these days that freedom of speech is only ok as long as it agrees in total with the left. NPR lost me long ago, wish I could quit them twice!

    October 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irondequoit, NY

      I second that notion!

      October 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      Another unfounded statement. It's all the lefts fault...we on the right are angels....sheesh.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nouveau Texas

    While I don't agree with this decision by NPR, I will continue to support NPR. In an age where the airwaves are awash with 5 second sound bites and wing-nut, hate-filled, ranting, NPR is a breath of fresh air. They present the news in a factual, unbiased, in-depth format that keeps me informed and educated. People used to hearing their biases shouted back at them (a la Rush Limbaugh and Fox notNews) find this disconcerting. They should stop shouting and start listening. They might learn something. Which is the point, after all.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olif

      Nouveau, I don't shout and I do listen to NPR, CNN, AND Fox News. I don't hear hate-filled rantings on either. The people on Fox are more passionate and talk loud at times, which includes the anchors and their guests (Libs and conservs). Being conservative, I find NPR to present the news in a way that is biased towards a liberal view. However, firing Juan Williams for stating a fact that a lot, if not most Americans would agree with is wrong. Mr. Williams' remarks were not bigoted and if they had stopped shouting about Fox News and listened to what Juan said, perhaps they would not have fired him.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CMAC

    Hey Pelosi, I mean TBA,
    Why so scared about Fox News? You don't think they're fair and balanced? I guess your boy Keith Oberman and Rachel Maddow from MSNBC are truthful:)

    October 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alene

      I repeat. Fox News major stockholder is a Saudi Prince. His name is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and is close to the Murdoch family.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus55901

      Of course Olbermann and Maddow are biased, but they are the "Editorial Page" of the network, the opinion section. The news is done fairly. Faux News makes little or no distinction between news and opinion – it's all blended together.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. E.T. Gesprochen

    As a traveler, I look around the airplane, too. Given that many terrorists have Muslim connection, it would be basic survival instinct to be alert seeing a Muslin looking passenger. If political correctness dictates that you ignore your survival instinct, then this correctness is a genocide tool sneaked into our society by terrorists.

    October 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. A reader

    Well, he broke the rules: no public punditry. NPR found that what he said fell into that category, so they canned him. They probably could have just reprimanded him, but they chose to take it all the way. It's unfortunate; people have held on to their jobs while committing much more serious infractions. It appears that they are just enforcing their internal policy, which is their right to do.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WhiteKong78

    Fox News is the anti- MSNBC which makes them both equally evil.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. YolkyPalky

    Seriously? A credible reporter who was written plenty on the Civil Rights movement, etc. gets fired for saying something so entirely benign as getting nervous when seeing overtly Muslim dressed passengers on an airplane? My God, "Political Correctness" has reached levels of insanity.

    God forbid we offend those who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11, bombed the USS Cole, Marine barracks in Beruit, tried to bomb the World Trade Center the first time, routinely stones women to death for alleged adultery (or lesser crimes), and scores of other unprovoked acts of terror.

    Juan was telling the truth and he gets fired for that? I also do a double-take if I see overtly dressed Muslims on my airplane, and why wouldn't I? Correct my if I am wrong, but isn't it 100% Muslims that took over airplanes with box cutters and purposely crashed them? Isn't it 100% Muslims that tried to light their shoes on fire that had been turned into bombs? Yes, this is why everyone must take off their shoes at airports now, thank you Muslims. The list goes on and on. How can it be a bigoted attack when 100% of the terrorist threats on civil airplanes have come from Muslims?

    Ellen Weiss of NPR, who the heck are you protecting here?

    October 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. drcaren

    Freedom in America should be allowed for ALL Americans regardless of race or religion. At the same time all people are people. We are made of emotions, thoughts and opinions. Often times things have been seen, heard or done to birth those thoughts, emotions and opinions. Sept. 11, 2001 did happen and those responsible for it were Muslim. I never took time to wonder if they were extremest or not – honestly I didn't care. How can the Muslim Community truly expect other American's to not feel nervous or anxious? Does that me we are hateful and cruel – no. I would feel nervous if a black person wearing a red bandanna and lots of bling-bling sat next to me on a bus – but I wouldn't even get up and move – I would probably smile and try to start up a conversation. My daughter has a Muslim friend and I am cool with that. I let her go over the her house and she has come over to our house.
    We're all people and we are going to have opinions and feelings and we should not be penalized and hated for possessing those human qualities – just like Muslims do not wish to be judged based on all the news stories of the brutality done to women and girls in the Muslim communities in other countries.

    Juan Williams admitted something that a lot of Americans think. Instead of calling it unacceptable maybe this should have been seen as an opportunity for honest dialogue. American-Muslims should thank him for being honest and open dialogue on how to ease that emotion.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. shaun

    "recent firings of journalists who made remarks deemed insensitive or inappropriate."

    If Fox News did that they wouldn't have a staff!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jane

    Tavis Smiley has said some anti-semetic things. He also has used his show to promote Louis Farrakhan (who talks about Jews the way the KKK once talked about gays and is head of the hate group Nation of Islam). When is this going to stop getting a free pass? Smiley had a program where a bunch of "black leaders" talked about "black issues". Farrakhan was invited and described by Smiley as a "scholar". Why the free pass? NPR has not fired him over this.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PotomacWill

    BIGOTRY 101: Bigot. Who me?I mean, look, you all, I’m not a bigot, but when I am waiting at the bus stop, I got to tell you, if I see a bunch of teenage boys with their caps on backwards and wearing big, baggy pants hanging half way off their buttocks, I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as street people, gangsta rappers, jailbirds or something, and I get worried. I get nervous—real nervous. Doesn't everybody feel that way. I mean, there they stand hulking around in there ghetto gear, and you get nervous; maybe nervous enough to get a concealed carry permit in case they make you so nervous you can't take it any longer!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dman

    I listen regularly to NPR, but based on this will probably be less likely to do so. All Mr Williams did was to express an opinion that he is far from alone in holding and did so in a respectful way. I have heard NPR reporters say things far more offensive in a non-NPR setting than Mr Williams did towards other groups and no firings came from that. NPR just shot themselves in the foot....again....

    October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. devosays

    censorship at its finest, the guy stated a "fact", he gets nervous when he sees a muslim on a plain... bet everyone of you liberals want to sit next to that muslim so you can let him brain wash you into changing your views on democracy and freedom of religion too... you people make me sick, and NPR is full of you people... and you know who I am talking about... bobble head liberal pan-lennonists!!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      Do not say what "everyone" of us liberals want...you know nothing of liberals...I am a liberal, and proud of it. And I daresay I have a larger gun collection than you...and I hate abortion (even though I agree to a woman's right to it) and I am uncomfortable with Muslims these days, and will be until I see them condemn violence in a much louder voice. BUT, I am just as nervous around people like YOU...because it is people like you that create extremists like Timothy McVeigh and others. I am uncomfortable around anyone that spews hatred so casually.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mm

    What a loss, Juan Williams is an accurate, truthful journalist... I am so done with Muslim crap!!!!! We all know that there are terroists, not all of them but we do know we are threatened by them!!
    Huge HUge mistake..........NPR

    October 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mm

      Agree junior

      October 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Aaron

    FREE SPEACH PEOPLE EVER HEARD OF IT!?!? Everyone today is a total pu$$y when it comes to stepping on someones toes, or hurting others feeling, the end result is I am NOT racist however I live my life based on what I have learned and what I see, I base it on STATISTICS, so yes when they say that 67 percent of America’s two million prisoners are nonwhite, and I see black individuals I know that my chances are GREATER to be robbed. that does not mean all blacks are robbers, but it does mean I have a greater chance of being robbed by a black individual then a white individual.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ssala

      Maybe all of your very accurate statistics are so readily absorbed so you can use them disingenuously, even though you must know that systems controlled by whites disproportionately assail blacks for committing identical and far less serious offenses than whites. Like NPR's disproportionate treatment of Juan Williams, and the relative "bye" Bret Favre is receiving from the media and the American public, as opposed to Tiger Woods.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
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