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. Brian

    Come on! We all know that NPR just fired him because he is black

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

    I am not the Brian who posted he was fired because he was black. Just an FYI.

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

    The guy was just being honest..So what's the big deal? If he was white and said that about African Americans, no one would have noticed. Don't get me wrong, I'm a white person myself, it's just that you hear this kind of stuff a lot and no one ever hears about it unless someone like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson brings it to the public's attention. I don't agree with any of it and I don't like the unfairness of it all. In this day and age, I'd rather hear someone speak the truth (whether I agree with them or not) and be upfront and honest with their audience rather then lie and be deceitful.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brian

    The muslim religion is based on killing or at best making other peoples subservient. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

    October 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jim atmadison

    Shame on Mr Williams for going on television or getting on an airplane without lightening his skin and straightening his hair.

    He chooses to present himself as a person of color first, rather than a regular American.

    Fair and balanced.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      It's not like he wears chains that go down to his waste and pants that go down to his knees. He actually presents himself pretty well

      October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    "Political Correctness" is one thing but what has been going on is extreme "Liberals Political Correctness". Very scary stuff.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      So very true

      October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tracy Bemiller

    Political Correctness has gone way too far now. You can't even express an honest opinion or feeling anymore. Better keep those feelings inside, or watch-out, you may lose your job. Way to go, NPR. What a beacon of reason. 🙁

    October 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David

    PC is going to be our downfall, grow a backbone. It's not the muslims in garb that need to be worried about.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Very true, David. Our worst enemy is the enemy within our own government.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jennifer

    What a joke. Free speech at it's best! Now this proves to me what a joke NPR really is.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joel

    I guess NPR's "editorial standards and practices" are that NPR does not tolerate diversity of opinions, viewpoints, and experiences. They just guaranteed that I will never write another check to NPR again.

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

      Joel... NPR wants their journalist to be unbias and unbigoted.... They have a strict code of ethics which Williams' has repeated violated over the years... therefore they fired him for his bigot and personal comments because he REPRESENTED HIMSELF AS AN NPR JOURALIST WHILE DOING IT!!!

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

      Melanie, please. They just fired him because he's black

      October 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Wake up Melanie. Free speech to the NPR and the left is great as long as you are speaking their language. If you have a differing point of view, then you are have no right to free speech. Firing Juan Williams is proof of that.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marc in Florida

    If you don't have anything politically correct to say, better to say nothing.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. amanda

    If it is in fact true that he also warned against stereotyping all Muslims as terrorist, then I don't think he should have been fired. While he may be wrong to feel that way (nervous), it's the way he feels and he was just being honest. It may have been in bad taste or poor judgement, but I just don't feel like what he said was really horrible enough to warrant being fired........and I'm a Liberal! So, a big "in your effin' faces" to all you idiots that like to spew nonsense about how all Liberals share a certain view on this issue.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brian W

    NPR is nothing but a joke of a radio station. It is very liberal-biased, and would not even be able to stay on air if it wasn't being funded by the taxpayers.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    I would suggest that some of you could check out the no fly list. Last time I did, there were 80 thousand names on it. Odd, but it seems like there are an awful lot of Muslim names on there. Sure makes me wonder.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jimmy

    I believe that everyone is missing the point. Blacks and jews did not bomb the trade center. I get that same feel ing when I see a muslim on the plane or train. I can't believe that the government is funding an organization that refuse freedom of speech. My tax money

    October 21, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
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