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. manuel

    I see white people and assume their all WASPs. I see black people and assume they can all dance. I see Mexicans and presume alls they eat are refried beans.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sssimon

    I object to this firing for all the reasons already mentioned plus that fact that what he said wasn't said on NPR as part of his job but on another network on his own time. Sheesh, the man should be able to say anything at all away from his employment.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. john

    No way should he have been fired for that comment. Maybe the producer reprimands him but not loose his job over an opinion. His opinion is only harmful if he acts inappropriately based on his feeling. Seems that there is no tolerance when an opinion or feeling goes against the liberal media. Sure 90% of muslims are non-violent and most not religious nuts but unfortunately, there are a lot of muslims with extremist thinking. Can't fire someone because they recognize a potential risk.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lt

    When Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas were fired, everyone seemed to agree. But when Williams is fired, everyone is up in arms. Geez, I wonder what Rick and Helen have in common. It seems to me that our society picks and chooses which groups can be publicly criticized. That is the problem. Either everyone has a 1st amendment speech, regardless of political correctness, or no one does.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |


    October 21, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      Heck yeah it was his skin color....white guys never get fired! Ever! (What a maroon!)

      October 21, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tommy T

    Twist those pearls, wingnuts! And be sure and suddenly stop listning to NPR while you're at it. (snicker)

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

    Mr Williams said what he felt and sure he has a right to free speech as all Americans claim to have . How ever political correctness interferes with free speech in this country . There is nothing wrong in his statement as almost every one of us feel that way. Many do not say it and he said it openly . Also he said in a different forum and not as a correspondent for NPR . How many Muslims have gotten up and condemed the atrocities of the muslims killling innocent people in the name of Islam and Allah . Show me any othe state heads such as prime minister or president or king .

    October 21, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      He signed a contract. Contract disallows such statements. (But, I still think he should not have been fired).

      October 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. zephyrwinds

    Looks like the 1.8 million Soros gave to NPR was a high price to get rid of someone who disagreed with him.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. montyross

    there is free speech but it seems that blackmail is more rampant than at first suggested..........

    October 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. myself


    October 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Behebbak

    Clearly, NPR ascribes to the same twisted sense of PC that do Goldberg and Behar because there is "nothing" wrong with what Juan said on FOX. With the insane state of the world and the repeated attempts of Muslim martyr-wannabes to bring down U.S. airliners, how can anyone "not" feel on edge when placed in the situation Juan describes??? Personally, I hope Juan successfully destroys NPR by suing them blind. Unless we all wake up, the complacency and PC preached by the likes of NPR and the pathetic, vacuous "View" will get us all killed. You're a great guy Juan, and you can do better.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crady

      You actually expect any form of liberal media to be tolerant ???

      October 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PARROT


    October 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. goat shepherd

    Ron Williams you are not alone but as a public figure you must learn to choose your words more carefully.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jbeau

    npr while left leaning has brought us less partisan reporting than cnn or fox. but this does seem to be an overreaction. if a reporter cant talk about fears many americans feel justified or not then it feels like we re losing free speech to political correctness.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RJ

    If we're going to fire journalist or commentator's for bigoted remarks such as CNN's Rick Sanchez's remarks and now NPR's Juan Williams remarks – both on other media venues; Why hasn't CNN-TIME fired Joel Stein for his obviously racist and bigoted tirade piece "My own private India" ? Joel Stein just apologized and TIME till prints his articles. Why isn't it the same for the first two journalists? Is there some kind of double-standard here?

    I agree with a previous comment. Juan Williams should just apologize for his comments and NPR should move on. Now, I, a long time liberal sympathizer (on social issues, I'm conservative on financial ones), am questioning who gets fired and who doesn't by our media. Is there media bias that Muslims are off limits but Hindus are fair game (as in Joel Stein's article )? There is a dangerous precedent being conveyed here. Are all bigoted comments, however slight, to be followed with uniformly harsh consequences or not? Or does the media pick and choose which ethnic group is now the "protected" one of the week?

    October 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
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