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. Gadsden

    NPR is a leftist news organization that decided to censor someone who presented an alternative viewpoint. Williams should sue them. and Congress should eliminate their funding. After Nov they probably will.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Neil

    Firing Williams was wrong. He simply said the honest truth about how he felt. The very thing that CAIR claims it is fighting for for Muslims. And the TRUTH is that Muslims did attack us. I defy anyone to produce any evidence that Muslims did not attack us.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Darth Cheney

    Did you posters bother to read the part about the ethics code that Williams clearly violated? I guess not; "reading" would require some assimilation of "facts" that might run counter to your "arguments".

    October 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    Congress should de-fund NPR immediately. If a pesonal opinion stated by any american is cause for termination the first amendment right of free speech is but a myth

    October 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lwba

    De j'vu, this seems like the Shirley Sherrod thing all over again. I think that NPR has had a knee-jerk reaction to what Williams has innocently said. We are all constantly told to be aware, and to be watchful of possible terrorists. So one would be in complete denial if he were to say that people in complete muslim attire did not alert his sense of awareness. That's because we all consider most terrorists to be of Middle Eastern , Muslim origins, rightly or wrongly.
    I am Black, but when I see a kid dressed like a gangster rapper coming toward me down the street, I become concerned. Even though I know that most kids just dress that way and mean no harm.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Stoprunning

    He's just being a typical black person.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. midwestpaul

    I totally support NPR and the dismissal of Juan Williams. He should have been fired after his rude comments about Mrs. Obama.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. James

    It's sad that political correctness, liberal cowardice, and naivety have gotten us to this point. Call a spade a spade when the data and truth supports it, the Islamic religion has a large percentage of people that support Sharia law including beheadings, amputation for crimes, women being treated as property, and the forceful conquest and conversion of the West to Islam.

    If you don't recognize that the Islamic religion is legitimiately dangerous, then you are either scared or ignorant. The violent tendancies are not practiced by a small percentage of "bad apples" that taint the rest, it is consistent across huge populations within many countries.

    Watch some of the videos of children being tortured for handling US currency, or any of the other vile atrocities that are practiced and then tell me that Juan doesn't have the right to be afriad.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jimmy23


    Saying it or not saying it isn't going to stop muslims from blowing themselves up for the sake of Allah.

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

    Racism and religious bigotry must be prohibited on all media esp NPR

    October 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    I want to know how Bookman knows for a fact that there are far fewer Muslim terrorists than there are black criminals. Where did you get the numbers and who is your source of the information? I have to agree with Juan, with two tours in Iraq and one to Afghanistan I've seen stuff. Bad stuff. Women with suicide vests, children with guns, men who you talked to only a moment ago and thought "Wow, that's a nice fellow" only to turn around and see him aiming an RPG at your vehicle...I don't trust those people. It maybe my prejudice alone, but it has saved my life more than once. I don't trust Muslims and I never will. At least Juan was honest about it and not a lying appeaser.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    One exception: only foxists and their fox tv can be allowed to spew nonsense.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. john p joy

    everyone is hard wired in the DNA to think a certain way (nature knew reality was way to complicated to handle without an internal guidance system), and harbor hard wired almost immutable core beliefs...my DNA finds Kristol's opinion compatible. but I dont mistake my core beliefs/opinions for reality........do you?

    The Poet

    October 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe111111


    Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Koran 2:191
    “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” Koran 9:123
    “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them.” Koran 9:5
    “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” Koran 3:85
    “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”... Koran 9:30
    “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” Koran 5:33
    “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” Koran 22:19
    “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.” Koran 8:65
    “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.” Koran 3:28
    “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an.” Koran 8:12
    “Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels.” Koran 8:60

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

      That sums it up. It is no different than Jim Jones, just older and entrenched, an infection on our planet in the minds of people.

      October 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lefty

    I think that if Juan Williams heard someone else make the remarks he is responsible for he would have a difficult time labeling them as anything but racist. These are some very sad times that we are living through, with the economy in a shambles and our "inalienable" rights being flushed down the sewer. There probably won't be another experiment in freedom and democracy as grand as the United States; it's a shame that it had to end this way.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mei

      Juan Williams is not a bigot. He was expressing what MOST people feel these days in regards to seeing Islamic attire. It shows that the people wearing the clothing are very serious about their religion and if they are serious, it can also mean extreme. Does it mean he was labeling all Muslims extremists? No. NPR was WRONG in firing this man. What NEEDS to be done is for Muslims to start publicly denouncing extremism and SHOW to the world they are all about peace with their non-Muslim neighbors. Until they DO THIS, they will not gain trust because of the extremists who hijack their religion to do evil. They have to be a witness to goodness if they want people to view them as good. Christians are known for their charity works because they have done SO much charity in the world. Action speaks louder than words.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zen-ichi-Maro

      @ Mei: Let me ask you this: If you saw an observant Jew wearing a yarmulke and prayer curls (forgive me, please if I get my terminology incorrect as I am not part of the Jewish community), would you immediately assume that he was making plans to kill some Palestinians? If you saw a woman wearing a large cross and reading her bible, would you immediately assume she was going to assassinate an abortion provider? I think your logic fails on its face.

      Just because someone wears the garb, takes the tonsure, or whatever they might do to show how "serious" they are about their faith, there's no way you can immediately leap to the impossible conclusion that they are somehow extreme. In an increasingly globalised and pluralistic world, we have to allow for people to dress their culture and their faith no matter WHERE they are. Had Williams said he gets nervous on the bus when there are blacks aboard, he would rightly be accused of harbouring some very stereotypical views of African Americans. But because it's Muslims, and because Islamophobia is all the rage (literally as well as figuratively), he's somehow being railroaded? I just don't see it.

      And, by the way, I'm a buddhist monk who wears his robes and mala beads in public, so, you know, watch out...


      October 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoBama

      Are you kidding me? Are you liberal's all kidding me? Really! Is there no end to your hypocrisy? omg your are lost souls.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Sheaffer

      America's long-term commitment to the rights of minorities, and the way their dignity has always eventually been honored by the majority, has always been an amazing, refreshing inspiration to the world. Human nature tends towards fear, which creates paranoia and clannishness; look across the world (and history) for confirmation of this. America is the great experiment.

      I totally admire, value, and even love the enlightened few who constantly remember to protect those who are weak, maligned, demonized by the majority (who employ whichever fear trigger they can find to justify their clannishness). These are the true guardians of liberty, and we owe a debt to them! Frankly, I'm honored that such people walk next to me on the street, and inform me on high-quality programming such as NPR.

      They absolutely did the right thing by making an example of someone who was spreading hate propaganda against a very vulnerable minority .. and by once again reminding us all that fear is no excuse for condemning the innocent.

      When we permit hateful stereotyping and categorization of others .... we endanger our future selves.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • vinny

      You cant say anything anymore without someone getting offfended. Its a joke. what happened to the First Amendment?

      October 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • amanda


      Really? Are you freaking kidding me? Do you really not know that the term "Liberals" is just a plural word and does not imply onwership, therefore does not require an apostrophe?!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • amanda


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