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?"

Post by:
Filed under: Civil Rights • Islam • Sarah Palin • Twitter
soundoff (764 Responses)
  1. NAna

    Nonsense to the highest degree. Juan gets fired for expressing his personal opinion on another news outlet. Wow wonders will never end. NPR resinstate Juan or prepare for a reduction in contributions or donations you receive from the public. This is disgusting.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Federalist

    Federal Funding should be stopped immediately. Litmus question to all congressional candidates: "Do you support the funding of NPR which recently fired an analyst for exercising his Freedom of Speech?

    October 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bruce

    It's a sad thing to say but I think anyone who gets on a plane, bus, subway, etc. and sees someone in Muslim garb to some very small maybe sublime level thinks about 911.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. freedtoo

    Wait a minute this is probably one of the most upright guys you could meet. Some left wing zealot must have it in for him, surely their actions cannot be because of this comment and other statements expressing his views.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bob

    He shouldn't be talking, he's black. I'm more
    Afraid of black people than I am of muslims. And that's not an opinion, there are more black criminals than Muslim jihadists.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      Actually Juan is Hispanic. He is from Panama. el es Panameno.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. D Roger

    I must have missed something here ! How is what Juan Williams said about fearing a muslim different from waht President Wanta-be Odumwa said about his "white grandmother" fearing a "blackman" who was on the same street as she was? It sure looks like a double standard here when it comes to race! Oh well it's no problem Odumwa will just schedule another trip on AF#1 and hold a "Beer Summit" with NPR and Juan! How funny can it get in America, A left wing public funded radio station, firing a bcack man with a latino first name for saying he fear flying with a muslim! Only in Odumwa's America!

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike in KC

    As as a listener and contributor to NPR for 25 years I'll help clear the air. This issue is not so much this one comment, but a host of them and his regular analyst "contribution" to Fox which is clearly right leaning. IIn my view, it would be no more appropriate for him to appear on any of the MSNBC pundit programs which are clearly left leaning. NPR haters can all be up in arms as usual, but who cares because they don't listen or contribute anyway. NPR is for those who want to think for themselves......for everyone else there is Fox and MSNBC.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. D Green

    To SLEWATHA "NPR the most credible news source"???? What sand bag is your head in? What planet are you living on? You must be so far to the left your car tries to go into the left lane when you drive. Give me a break. NPR is very biased to the left. I am sick of my tax dollars paying for them to be on the air. Oh I know where your head is.....up your rear.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      Because NPR doesn't report extreme right views, does not make them extreme left. I would say they lean left, but are closre to the center.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • nobody N. Particular

      D Green: Instead of being a j@ck@55, and making bold, unsubstantiated claims about how biased NPR is, why don't you give an example? If you don't have one, then your opinion is just that, an opinion. You and several others here have made some pretty broad claims about how biased NPR is, but NONE of you offer an example. The fact you say it's biased doesn't make it so. Also, stop with the insults; either back up your claims with facts or STFU.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Craig

    I listen to NPR almost every day. They have a refreshing way of staying above the fray in their reporting. They work hard not to give opinions in their reporting and when they interview, they rarely reveal any personal opinion in support toward or against their subject especially on political subjects. So, if Juan Williams makes it clear how he feels about Muslims, then how can he interview any Muslims in the future without automatically putting them on the defensive. That is why NPR fired him – he has hurt the integrity of his own ability to give an unbiased interview or report.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • D Green

      You are as full of crap as NPR is. They ARE NOT supposed to lean either way, but you even admit they lean left. GEEZ, what stupidity.

      October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    To show the rest of the world that America loves the Muslims, we need to hand over our entire weapons to the Muslim countries. That's when you all will know that Islam is truly a religion of "peace". I’m sure that not all Muslims are terrorists. But if their teachings give the rest of the world two options – CONVERT or BE KILLED, I wonder what the true definition of PEACE is. Everyone is trying to be politically correct in America. If you're not ready to face the truth, it's better to just shut up. Shame on you, NPR! BTW, I’m not a fan of FOX either.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. no more PC BS

    If the muslim community took the time to be empathetic to the mnon muslim reaction to 9/11, perhaps they could find it within themselves to tolerate the damaging afffect THEIR fringe had on our non muslim psychology.

    are we supposed to forget our emotions, our primal fears las if we're machines?

    I believe it is the muslim community that needs to shopw some tolerance and sensitivity and allow us to work through these issues through an honest public discourse about what both sides have done and continue to do to each other.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nobody N. Particular

    OK, it seems like some of you out there need a little civics lesson. The First Amendment only says that "Congress shall make no laws abridging...", and since NPR isn't Congress, they are NOT violating the First Amendment. Also, Juan went off the reservation, he engaged in punditry (which violated NPR rules) and used his position as a journalist (in this case allowed his position as a journalist to be used) to offer an opinion not based on facts (also a violation of the NPR rules). Juan diluted his credibility as a journalist by doing this, thereby diminishing his value as a reporter to NPR; and in order for NPR to repair this damage they had to let him go. At least NPR still believes in journalism, unlike FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN all seem to be more for editorializing the news and offering their opinions (through talking heads) on the news. My answer for getting a well rounded view of the world is to read as many sources (regardless of if they are liberal or conservative) as you can, and points that these sources agree upon, should be considered facts, everything else as speculation. In this world we cannot afford to have a populace that cannot think for itself; otherwise we will lose this democracy and replace it with plutocracy (ruled by the wealthy and elite).

    October 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • lt

      Well said!!!!!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      I agree, Nobody. Unfortunately, too many are willing to be led around by their noses and can't think for themselves. It is easier to have a editorialist, or worse yet, a politician tell them how and what to think rather than to research the facts and come to their own understanding and conclusions. It is truly scary! If you can't think for yourself, then somebody surely will for you and then you will be in trouble.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerry BFF

      Well said, indeed!

      October 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. D Green

    To Craig You are as full of crap as NPR is

    October 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig

      I'll take that as a compliment if the alternative is Fox.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Shane

    I really doubt that there is anyone that doesn't have 9/11 cross their minds when they enter a plane, that includes muslim flyers as well. Honestly its a shame that people can't seem to relate to the fact that this happened to us as a nation, and that people of all walks of life even those outside the U.S. will think about it. If it were a bunch of Swedes that had done it, people would be wary of blondes, its a natural survival instinct and we need to stop bashing people for talking about it. If we don't talk about it, it will remain unresolved whispers forever.

    October 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hudh G. Rection

    Allah Akbar Obama

    October 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28