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. Moses The Tank

    NPR and Senator McCarthy make quite a pair. The only thing hates more than free speech is free speech that doesn't tow the line. I ended my 18th consecutive year of giving to NPR 5 years ago after hurricane Katrina due to the outrageously racist bias in their editorialisms (what they call "facts"). This overt bigotry of the left is hardly a surprise.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. descarado

    The Politically Correct Fascists have certain limitations on free speech. Be afraid, America...be very afraid.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Beware_of_God

    Jews, Poles, Fat Women, Midgets, the Crippled, Deformed, and Insane......just think of all the good jokes that have been lost due to political correctness. Comedians have to make a living too you know.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moses The Tank

      This is not a joking matter.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nyarlathotep

      Moses" EVERYTHING is a laughing matter.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Barry

    NPR has long since marginalized itself in the public view, and from what I can tell the only people who listen to them are the left wing nuts anyway. Certainly no one looks to NPR as a source of unbiased news, and I quit listening to NPR long ago. Although I usually don't agree with Mr Williams and his very liberal outlook and totally blind support of Obama, I still find that he is (was) one of the few thoughtful commentators from either side on radio and television, and at least seems to have some logic and reasoning behind most of his views (except, again, for his support of Obama). NPR has actually done a service for the conservative movement by silencing one of the only intelligent liberals around. Thanks, NPR; now that the Dems will be out of office, hopefully your funding will go the way of Williams.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dennis

    Williams just said what most sensible people feel. If you deny that flying with Muslims would not make you uncomfortable, you are either lying or nuts. Political correctness will be the downfall of this country. Yep, I said it, now let the accusations fly.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SDFrankie

      I accuse you of being boring for saying something that's been said 100 times. I further accuse you being dim for thinking what you said was edgy and bold.

      October 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Phil

    Not surprising given NPR's leftist leanings. It hasn't been taken seriously by the conservative segment of our society for years. It goes to show that the liberal left values free speech for themselves and no one else. They are absolutely ruining our nation.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SDFrankie

    Fox has no use for him any longer. He's a black man! The only reason they ever bothered with him was because he worked for NPR and his presence lent a veneer of plausibility to their BS. Personally, I always thought it went both ways. It might have made the Fox Sunday Yackfest appear slightly less farcical, but it dragged the credibility of NPR down proportionally.

    October 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Exactly!!!! William's goes on O'Reilly as an 'NPR Journalist'.... Well, not anymore...

      October 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moses The Tank

      More typical leftist bigotry, cultural illiteracy, prejudice, and racism... Juan is a Panamanian, but you just can't identify him as such because you don't see it to your advantage. Please let go of the leftist hate policies and put them in the past.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • amanda

      I find it hilarious that half you right – wingers don't like liberals becuase they're "bleeding hearts" and the other half don't like them becuase they're "bigots". You guys can't even come together enough to decide why you don't like them! LOL!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. I Hussein

    I am Muslim, and I am not offended by what Juan Williams Said. when you go to Mosque on Friday which is the day that Muslims have the sermons, I often hear Muslim defend terrorism and what happend on 911, I am appalled.
    I Know Muslims who wish death on the infidels(anyone who is not a Muslim) so all of you who think that you are safe, think again, as a Muslim I am afraid for my family sometimes, I am afraid of my own, I feel safer living in USA in the Rural Area than in a Muslim Society. If anyone want to see the true meaning of Islaam, look at the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M". That would give you a different perspective of Islaam.

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

      Fortunately you have other choices in this country. Get away from it if you want to.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Truth Be Told

    Well it wasn't Asians, blacks or whites who killed innocent Americans on 9/11 – it was radical muslims. These people were bred to kill Americans...nothing more nothing less. They don't care if you are an innocent child...they will kill and torture you. Wake up stupid Americans...it's open season and we're the target. Time to take these terrorists down before they kill anymore innocent people. Grow some balls and stand up for your beliefs.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill Surrey

    NPR is attempting to censor staff by preventing staff from attending the "rally for sanity". It's no ones damn business what people do outside of their work. Time for NPR to dissolve.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      NPR has rules trying very hard to keep their employees UNBIASED.... that is why they fired Williams and really don't want their employees attending Mr. Stewart's march – they want their employees (AKA JOURNALISTS) to appear UNBIAS!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      @Melanie but not if you are African American. Since they have no African American Journalists now. I'm just waiting to hear from Al Sharpton on this subject.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill from Florida

    Williams did nothing wrong. If you are walking down the road and pass close to a group of angry looking teenagers, do you walk around and give them a wide berth or walk right past them? If you then relate this story to another person, does it make you a bigot if you walked around a group of (choose your race) teenagers? I think not. These are very different times than when I grew up on the south side of Chicago. Now we have to worry about kidnapping, or shootings. Living in a high state of awareness is the norm today. Living any other way if foolhardy.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ron

    Juan Williams has been a thorn in the side of NPR for years. They have tried him in various positions and I think have given up. This was just a great excuse for NPR tofinally get rid of him.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. S.

    I am a Liberal Gay Muslim Female and see nothing wrong with people having Freedom of Speech. NPR should just apologize and admit they were wrong.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • WillyWalnuts

      I'll bet you have issues

      October 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dana

    I want to say to Juan Williams: "I mean, look, I'm not a bigot. But when I see a black man coming towards me, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in gangsta garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as black, I get worried. I get nervous." Ask him how appropriate he thinks that is, and whether that kind of thought should be held up on a national stage, especially in the current political climate. The ignorant comments on here support that presenting this wrong line of thought as legitimate only makes things worse. Sorry for your folly, Juan – I hope you at least understand it now.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Dana – your comments are perfectly stated!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      I thought it was Muslims that are trying to blow up planes, am I wrong? Isn't that the issue?

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

      I got hit by a Drunk Driver at night so I get nervous when I see a car lights approaching me at night. So I guess I'm a bigot and hate all people who drive at night including police officers and my Mother. It's his feelings based on his experiences in life just like mine. Who are we to criticize him about how he feels. He was truthful about his feelings. I would prefer
      to hear him say this to open dialogue on the subject. Btw I'm upset with the President of NPR for saying he should go and talk to his shrink. This offends me to say all people who say something you disagree with should seek professional help. Double Standard?

      October 21, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    We teach our Kids that every stranger is potentially someone who is going to do then harm....this is accepted as correct and the right thing to do.....but shame on us for being vocal about our own individual concerns and fears......the media is amazing

    October 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      You can voice your individually views all you want... YOU can't voice your bigoted views representing an unbiased news organization called NPR!!! William's broke his contract doing just that and was FIRED!!!

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