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. Mike

    The bigot Juan Williams made a pay raise out of the whole deal! Ricky Sanchez is next. All those "hurt" are extremely simpletons!

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

      soon you won't be able to say simpleton, because it will be politically incorrect and offensive to liberals

      October 21, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mabolz iz Hari

    Hey, when I get on a plane with a bunch of christians, I live in fear of getting pork for the in-flight meal!

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

      You have nothing to worry about here in the States. All the pork is in the bills congress passes. There isn't any left for airline meals.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brianc

      See, that was funny! I was not offended by that! Maybe NPR should lighten up??

      October 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill from New Haven

    the guy simply should not have been fired. what if he was muslim and said a bus load of people wearing crucifexes freaked him out? would they can that person?

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

    Frankly, anybody, including muslims, who is not afraid of fundementalist of any ilk especially muslims is soft in the head. Don't the apologists read the news??

    October 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Neil Walden

    Would you hire a thief if you knew he stole from ever body he ever worked for? Would you want a muslin in your country that does not believe in freedom. I say go Juan Williams and get these people out of our country.

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

    Melanie, while your opinion seems to be founded by some new era lib. thinking i do tink you need to take a look at the facts.
    first , the track record shows todays society has made muslim americans almost a protected race.
    second, Juan spoke his mind, wich he is alowed to do and even by NPR standards is acceptable.
    however it all comes down to the fact that muslims have managed to alter the very principles of our country to earn some type of acceptance into our society.
    in conclusion i think that me and many other americans feel that by trying to defeat un equality we have actually propelled it to a new level in wich the minoritys are more powerfull than the majoritys and that is something your should think about.

    October 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brian W

    Political correctness overload in the last few months: Not allowed to say "Retard", the muslim prophet "Muhammed" was bleeped out of South Park because of muslim threats, making fun of the word "gay" in movies has been asked to be taken out of movies (Vince Vaughn's "Dilemma" movie), saying that muslims attacked us on 9/11 (which is 100% accurate) has been criticized, and now saying that people dressed in full muslim garb on an airplane makes you nervous get's you fired from NPR. What a joke liberals are making this country

    October 21, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John L.

    Imagine no religions...

    October 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    What where the terrorists wearing when they flew the planes into the World Trade Center? Where they wearing "Muslim grab" or western wear? Juan Williams made a mistake with what he said on the show. It is a shame when those that where once mistreated, mistreats others. What have we really learned or how do we teach our children about being tolerate of other races. I would have asked for him to resign, hopefully he understands NPR's actions.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Glen Bumgardner

    If you support the firing of Juan Williams....contribute to NPR. If you think firiing Juan was giganticly stupid...do not contribute. I would welcome Juan into my home as a guest anytime. I would not let those who fired him in my yard and hope they lose their gov't funding and their CEO gets fired. I might even buy one of Juan's books for Christmas but I don't think he needs the money.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Good riddance. I'd like to donate to NPR because now my money will be well spent.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian W

      we all donate to NPR, they are publicly funded. Of course they still accept donations from us citizens (including a $1.8 million donation from George Soros). Of course when they finally do get their public funding removed, they will go under

      October 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brian W

    NPR just hates black people, Juan Williams was their only black analyst, so they fired him

    October 21, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Did Juan Williams and Ricky Sanchez know how other people feel when these two board a plane?

    October 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ayo

    I love Juan Williams but disagree with his careless talk about Muslims / Terrorists dress. I am a Christian but do wear African traditional dresses that people like Juan will refer to as "Muslim dress" out of ignorance. That is why people should be careful or else they exhibit their ignorance in the public. Good he was fired, but I am happy that Fox has hired him. I hope he and others have learned from this incident.

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

    B O Reilly who started this freedom of hate speech thing is just like an old horse who you can't teach new tricks. He will never get it!

    October 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian W

      Political correctness overload in the last few months: Not allowed to say "Retard", the muslim prophet "Muhammed" was bleeped out of South Park because of muslim threats, making fun of the word "gay" in movies has been asked to be taken out of movies (Vince Vaughn's "Dilemma" movie), saying that muslims attacked us on 9/11 (which is 100% accurate) has been criticized, and now saying that people dressed in full muslim garb on an airplane makes you nervous get's you fired from NPR. What a joke liberals are making this country, and you are saying these are examples of hate speech? Are you an idiot?

      October 21, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • josh

      Brian W is correct. your opinions have no place in any reasonable arguement simply due to the fact youve thrown out any intallectuall qualitys you might have had to try to push a extreme left wing drama that always ends up flat on its face.

      October 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
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