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. Junior

    I guess NPR supports free speech, but only when they agree with what is being said. This would be a good reason not to support or even listen to them.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Saad

    Rich Sanchez was fired for stating a fact with no trace of bigotry or stereotype and he was fired by CNN...why the heck are those who were screaming good-riddance then have become defenders of free speech now...

    October 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      Agree. It's a double standard. Talking about Jews is anti-semitic, but talking about muslims and their garbs to spark fear is okay to the media, such as cnn.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JAY PHD

    NPR is nothing more then a liberal propaganda outlet supported by tax payer dollars. PTV is the same other then I enjoyed watching "Joy of Painting with Bob Ross"

    October 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. devosays

    just what obama wants, to deny anyone freedom of speach... if this same comment were made on CNN juan would still be employed by the NPR (numbskulls pro-racebaters) (national pro radicals)

    October 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fakenews

    Rick Sanchez got FIRED few day ago fro some other reason .. what was that ???

    October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wileysee

    I'm not a great supporter of Juan William’s philosophy but the type of censorship, as practiced by NPR, is with out a doubt wrong and skewed very much to the left. The man is not only allowed to have an opinion in this country, but he also allowed to voice his opinion. This has been done by MANY other more liberal journalists on NPR and they have made it a point to remind the public that they are allowed to make “opinion” comments on numerous occasions. Obviously, there will never be any donations to NPR from this household.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alene

      I am sure NPR never gave your household a thought since you listen to only Right Wing crap.
      NPR would be way way way over your head.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Saad

    Williams is Fox's litany of supposed liberals/dems who are really right wingers posing as liberals...good riddance indeed...

    October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Curt

    He said what millions feel. I can guarentee you that if I see those who are in Muslim's gard, I am a little hesitant to get on the same plane. Blame Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda for that.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. moe

    Big NPR fan but yes, this was political correctness gone bad. Almost everyone in the US would be lying if they said they didn't agree with WIlliams comments to some extent. It doesn't make you a bigot, but all I'm saying is that the idea pops in your head.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robby

    Fired for telling the Truth! Now that's a laugh. I agree with everything than Juan said.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark

    Ironically, had he not been fired they would be taking heat for keeping him on. It's a can't win situation, I'm sure they looked at their options before making the decision. The fact is that he is a media personality and represents NPR when he speaks publicly on any forum, regardless of whether he's on their air or not. When a media outlet loses control of their overall message, in this case the appearance of balanced reporting, they have to take steps. It has nothing to do with 1st amendment and everything to do about marketing and message control. Adios Juan.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patty Chaney

    Juan Williams has defended Obama since day one....while I do not agree with his democratic viewpoints.......I am horrified that he would be FIRED for expressing a feeling.

    Not ALL German Shepherd dogs are bad...but they still scare me! Can I not say this?

    Good luck to you, Mr. Williams.....for once, I would recommend that you sue those Dictators!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. beasterdamas

    This is a radio station scared of it's own shadow...

    October 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. devosays

    @saad... your completely wrong... sanchez was fired for being just plain stupid, not a fact in his statements about that moron comedian and CNN... your a brainwashed bobblehead pan-lennonist.... juan williams is a democrat who comes on FOX and us conservatives like the guy, we are fair and FOX is not balanced, but neither is CNN or NBC or BBC or HLN or ABC or CBS.... one against the many....

    October 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tommy T

    I find the sight of right-wingers clutching their pearls over Juan Williams amusing.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
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