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. Frank

    Has everyone forgotten that a group of muslims killed americans on our soil in a planned attack in 3 states simultaneously? While my mind can make a distinction between muslims and islamic terrorists I do share Juan's feelings. After pearl harbor it took time for americans to calm down. In time we will be at peace with what happened on 9/11. Until then this discourse is good as it airs our concerns. When Eric Holder became our attorney general he said Americans are afraid to talk about race. This action by NPR is why we are afraid. How can we have any constructive dialogue about any racial issue when the public mention of it causes you to loose your job. This lack of tolerance is disappointing to me. I can only hope we get past this.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tarheel2

    It just goes to show the left will not tolerate their own, especially a black man, criticizing anyone other than Republicans and Conservatives. What a joke the NPR just became. Who, other than the Far Left Lunatics will bother listening to them. They're just lucky they receive Welfare from the American people because these childish minds certainly can't support themselves.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy c

      NPR is a non-political company (privately owned non-partisan). They also warned employees not to attend the Jon Stewart rally. You don't get much news except from Fox do you?

      October 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • tarheel2

      You are correct. I get one-sided commentaries from ultra left pundits like Maddow and Matthews but the only channel that seems to tell a fair and balanced account of the news is Fox News Channel. It amazes me the other channels like msnbc won't copy Fox since people obviously prefer hearing the facts from both sides and not just a continuous one-sided "we hate Fox" monolouge

      October 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Surrey

      Fox is "fair and balanced"? According to whom??? (shaking head).

      October 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John Mize

    Sounds like a racist remark to me..............If I was to make it as a fernch scott english irish american id be a racisist I have muslim friends who are damn good people.....except for a few who like a few cold beers and sunday and monday night football can you believe that livin the American dream work hard and live good.......friggin foringers oh by the way the only true immigrants are the majoity of us.........unless of course you a American indian

    October 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. andy c

    NPR radio is a public(501-c for profit) company non-funded by the US government. They can hire and fire as they please. They fired Williams for appearing on FOX, no worries though mate. Murdoch loves those who hate and hired him for $2miilion year. Looks like a Fox plan all along. Huckabee and Palin are stupid if they think they can force a private company to hire and fire people. Tea party types just make up andl spread any kind of lies.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Last I checked they have received gov't subsidies every single year. $485k in 08 I think so to say they are non funded by the govt is incorrect.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      andy c when you pull your head out of this blood sucking administrations ass and look around its gonna be to late for your dumb left wing wanna be ass

      October 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Edwin

    This IS AMERICA and we have FREEDOM OF SPEECH. He made one small comment about his own personal feelings when he is on a plane. NPR should be a shamed for firing a person for making one SMALL comment. All of you people who are acting all holier than thou are just showing that you are a bigot. When we start saying that you can or can not say this or that. We have lost all right to freedom. Every right in this country stands on the sole right to voice your opinion. Whether it is liked or not. Anyone who says Juan was right to be fired is just a cog in the machine of bigotry.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      No you are wrong.... Williams' goes on Fixnews especially O'Reilly representing himself as an "NPR journalist/employee"... NPR has an employee's CODE OF ETHICS which Williams' has violated multiple times... His latest comments were the last straw... Remember – in this country – EMPLOYMENT IS AT WILL!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Haikong

    To those liberal bloggers, remember what B.O. had said: "The point I was making was not that Grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn't. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, you know, there's a reaction that's been bred in our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society."

    October 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • KAPA

      I was looking for that quote – thanks for posting it

      October 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. phil

    After Walter Cronkite, any missing anchorperson can be likened to a missing microphone. Just get another one....big deal. Oh OK....Connie Chung is another rare exception.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Annie B

    Juan Williams is one of the few to represent the intelligent
    expression of and respect for different opinions and beliefs. I guess
    unless we are bigots, we can never think another race, religion,
    nationality, etc. is capable of doing wrong? Doesn't the below
    example show the inconsistency of how our fears are perceived to be
    acceptable or not?

    Pretend I was walking home alone late one night and encountered of a
    group of men. Would it be unacceptable to tell you I felt afraid? Do
    you instantly assume that I hate men? Of course not. Although I know
    most men wish me no harm, in this situation I fear these men. A man
    has never attacked me but I have learned there is a chance of danger
    to me from a man when I am walking alone at night.

    Now flying is a fearful experience to many people. Similar to walking
    alone at night, there is a chance that something will go wrong and
    there is a chance that anyone may harm you. As there have been flight
    disasters at the hand of Muslim extremists and they openly proclaim
    their wish and plan to cause us harm, fellow Muslim passengers might
    make you uneasy. We know there is a miniscule chance the Muslims will
    cause any disruption on the flight at all, just as I know the men on
    the street are probably not out to get me.

    Fear does not equate to bigotry or intolerance. Fear is a physical
    response beyond our rational control.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Not when you got on O'Reilly show representing yourself as an "NPR Journalist"... NPR does its best to keep their reporting of news fair and balance (something that FIXNEWS doesn't know how to do)... Williams broke his employer's 'code of ethics' by given his personally views on a PUBLIC news station as an 'NPR Journalist'!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • One rational voice

      Thank you for a very logical and realistic statement. NPR was totally wrong firing Juan Williams for voicing a perfectly human response to a "perceived" threat given all we read and hear about threats to our safety in today's crazy world. Then to add insult to injury the president of NPR suggest that Juan needs to discuss his issues with a psychiatrist !!! Is she stating an OPINION regarding Juan's mental state? What a hypocrit!!! Our tax dollars should not be supporting this program when they start trying to become "politically correct" and start controlling one's free speech.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMC

      Give it a rest, you're becoming redundant!!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Klenovich

      After reading many of the comments on here about the Juan Williams firing I felt your comments were well stated & written. There was a sense of genuine opinion without a negative leaning and or trying to be sarcastic and mean. In my opinion the majority of all people think and feel as you describe and it has nothing to do w/ race, but a logic thought pattern that leans towards safety during a trying or dangerous time. It is a really sad day when a journalist can't express his opinion in any manner at all when it comes to race or religion.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    Juan Williams, Rick Sanchez are like BOReilly. You can't teach an old horse new tricks. They won't get it.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tarheel2

    "If someone makes a remark about African-Americans, there would be a riot." If a black man makes a racist remark about White People, Most Whites would just shrug and laugh and go on. I doubt there would be very little rioting or T.V.'s stole out of storeroom windows

    October 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KAPA

    In October 2010, NPR accepted a $1.8 million grant from George Soros, given through his Open Society Foundation. The grant is meant to begin a project called Impact of Government that is intended to add at least 100 journalists at NPR member radio stations in all 50 states over the next three years – this was the bribe to fire Juan.


    October 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Spare us your lies.... NPR gets most of their funding from private donations... Keep watching your FIXNEWS so you can fit right in with their daily of intolerance, hatred and bigotry....

      October 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SuperRighteousOne

    Im dressing up like a muslim for Holloween ..................... scary haw?

    October 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      And I'm dressing up as Mohammad. Think that will cause a big stink?

      October 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Did Juan Williams know how other people feel when he boards a plane?

    October 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. 2talltodd

    Juan's lesson learned: Don't speak the truth.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      No the lesson was and IS – don't represent yourself as a NPR Journalist and violate your employer's 'Code of Ethics' and open your dumb mouth on FIXNEWs and expect to keep your 'unbiased job at NPR'!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Flight93

    NPR is watching FOX too. Juan should have given his honest opinion on CNN or MSNBC, cause nobody is watching.
    Let's Roll

    October 21, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
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