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. Alex

    And that's the last donation my company will be making to NPR

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

      Too bad.. well I just gave them $100.00 for keeping their news reporters unbiased and unbigoted!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ER

    The issue is not whether MSNBC is a squawk box for liberals or FOX pounds the gavel for the right, it is about censorship. Vivian Schiller got a little pressure from special interest groups like CAIR and a few contributers and she marched off and fired Williams. Its pathetic that NPR or PBS can't insulate itself from those special interests. It is time that congress pull its funding. NPR has been one small step away from MSNBC for a long time, it certainly is not impartial or centerist.

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

      I listen to NPR everyday... They make every attempt to keep their NEWS JOURNALIST UNBIASED!!! They do their best to have both sides of the political spectrum represented in discussions... AND William's violated his employer's 'code of ethics' and was fired for it... Good for NPR!!! Now a bias reporter can talk on FIXNEWS all he wants – because he is not a true JOURNALIST anymore but a puppet of the right-wing Koch brothers, Murdoch, etc...

      October 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Help. MSNBC new slogan is "LEAN FORWARD"

      What do they mean? Some people are saying it has a very liberal and gay meaning and/or agenda. Thanks.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Melanie, NPR has always come across somewhat liberal in my opinion.

      You also stated that "They do their best to have both sides of the political spectrum represented in discussions" It doesn't come across that way to most people today.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      How is it an Individual is supposed to figure out which level of Islam he is sharing his ride with...... gotta love religion with degrees of followers, you dont hear the passive speaking out against the Radicals because according to the Quran you are either a believer or a non believer

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

    I saw an orthodox Jew on a plane once and it really freaked me out too. You just can't trust those people to pay full price for anything.

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

    Juan Williams got it all wrong. The gang that toppled the World Trade Center on 9/11 were NOT dressed in Muslim garb. They wore every day clothes like most people. This means that the time to get nervous when you get on a plane is not when you see people dressed in Muslim garb, but when you see people dressed in every day clothes.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Robert

    Political Correctness has hijacked common sense. Supporters of PC are so concerned about offending Muslims or any other group if someone has the courage to speak the truth. They say you can't use a wide brush to paint all Muslims as terrorists by making comments like Muslims were the ones who attacked us on 9/11. We were not attacked by Hindus, Jews, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Native Americans, Brits, Asians, or any other group of people you want to come up with. We were attacked by MUSLIMS. You would think that after all the years since 9/11, there would be just one, JUST ONE, Muslim individual or group that would have stepped forward by now and denounced the hijacking of their religion by terrorists in their name. NO ONE has stepped forward. If the Muslims are so concerned about what people think of them, then it is about time they got off their butts and publicly denounce, long and loud, that these brutal butchers are not speaking for them. Until then, the public opinion they get is what they deserve.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sherry

    I think NPR is racist and fired Juan Williams because he is black, not because they disagree with him. After all the tea party people are all racists because they disagree with a black president.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Was Juan one of their only black reporter? I hope the NCAA looks into this matter and jumps on the NPR for their racist actions.

      October 21, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    Is there a pattern here...(extremist) Liberals attack, fire and call everyone a racist/bigot that disagrees with their agenda and doesn't do as they say. The Liberals believe they have Freedom of Speech but no one else. Very scary stuff...Marxism/Communism.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. the_dude

    NPR isn't real news just like fox and cnn are not real news. Who cares? He is going to get some other bs job at some other false news outlet.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jack

    I think NPR has gone overboard with being too "politically sensitive," and that Juan's comments were appropriate. NPR has become too liberal and pro-Democrat over the years and I no longer listen to it.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    Liberalism and PC the downfall of America.
    Liberals are so blind and stupid that they don't realize they are in bed with the enemy, the first people Islamists want to blow up are the Godless liberals.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      Bush started two wars to give the Muslims who live there 'freedom and liberty' from tyrannical leaders... American soldiers die everyday in Afghanstan providing that freedom and you have the nerve to post your comments... How GOP of you!

      October 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jasper

    This is a great strategy. Williams got picked up by FOX. Pure genius!!!! We're all idiots for not thinking of it first.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ER

    Political Correctness is an insideous cancer which is slowly stifling of freedom of speech, and liberty and common sense. Every special interest can stop the discussion by claiming they don't like the words.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Black Hills/S.D.

    It's sad that we have journalists whose purpose is to inflict suffering so their headline reads "NPR journalist fired" all because an interviewer has staff working to develop a question that can only be answered in a specific fashion. We might find that many public figures stop speaking with certain interviewers and networks, they're not worth the damage they intend to inflict.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tommy t

    when i see blacks get on a bus you better be sure i get anxious and nervous

    October 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    NPR blew it on this one. Any American, and really any person, who gets on an airplane and denies being worried about Muslims and Middle Eastern people after 9/11 is lying. I am not saying all of those people are bad, they are not, but when so many of their people are trying to kill us, caution and concern is warranted and even natural.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
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