NPR Terminates Juan Williams Over Anti-Muslim Comments

NPR commentator Juan Williams got the axe last night for comments he made Monday on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show. The context:

O'Reilly has been looking for support for his own remarks on a recent episode of ABC's "The View," in which he directly blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Williams' comments:

"Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Tim McVeigh.

In announcing the firing, NPR said: [More..]

[H]is remarks "undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."

In my view, Williams has lacked credibility for years. He's a conservative who pretends to be progressive on some issues. NPR has known this and struggled with it for a long time, yet they kept him on, demoting him from journalist to "analyst" (i.e. pundit.) Good for NPR for finally getting rid of him. Better late than never.

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    Yeah (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 04:15:38 AM EST

    Look folks, I'm not a bigot (none / 0) (#2)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 05:18:15 AM EST
    and I've written elsewhere about my fathers' Texas family and Southern culture in general.

    But when I read comments here by folks who primarily identify themselves first and foremost as Southern white men, I get worried, I get nervous.

    Fortunately, I don't work for NPR.

    heh (none / 0) (#6)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:40:47 AM EST
    starting a sentence with "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot" is pretty much always a red flag but when the Bill is OReilly . . . .

    and (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 12:21:39 PM EST
    "some of my best friends are...."

    I am not a crook (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:46:43 AM EST
    I am not a witch. (none / 0) (#12)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:16:31 AM EST
    Elviras (none / 0) (#17)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 12:51:02 PM EST
    I saw this. (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:06:01 PM EST

    early 70s (none / 0) (#23)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:53:20 PM EST
    thats what I thought.  she looks GREAT.
    she must be about as old as me.

    Isn't this the same character (none / 0) (#24)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 03:04:49 PM EST
    that was portrayed in Ed Wood; the one that Wood, as played by Johnny Depp, was on his knees begging in The Brown Derby to be in one of his movies?

    I guess she goes back aways..


    I (none / 0) (#3)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 06:59:18 AM EST
    get a little antsy with any overt display of religious affiliation - on a plane or on the bus.

    But that's not because I think one group is more prone to violence than another.

    Obama declares himself to be a Christian and drops bombs from drones on Muslims.

    We know what some who declare themselves as Muslims have done.

    Displays of religious identity make me nervous because I don't identify with what the people displaying their symbols or dress are expressing.

    But ultimately, in the instance mentioned by Williams, it seems to me that it is far better for someone to openly declare themselves as Muslims, or whatever, and expose themselves to increased scrutiny - than for people to conceal their identities.
    He should remember that those 9/11 hijackers were dressed quite casually. One would not know what they were up to by just looking at them.

    But as to whether he should get fired... I don't know.
    In the quote above, he seemed to be reporting a personal reaction -- and he didn't go about trying to justify it.

    It reminds me somewhat of Shirley Sherrod's statement about her personal reactions and the manner in which she went about dealing with it.

    I will also admit that I have some loathing for NPR - much more than anything negative I could feel about Williams. Talk about conservatives in sheep's clothing...

    I don't know either... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:19:42 AM EST
    that statement alone doesn't seem so terrible.  Retarded, but not terrible.

    If we can't admit what we're irrationally afraid of, if we can't admit our prejudices...how do we expect to combat irrationality and prejudice?

    Fire him for being a lousy journo-pundit, but not for this.


    NPR put him and Fox on warning (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:00:56 AM EST
    a year ago, when NPR requested that he have Fox stop labeling him on air as an NPR analyst.

    So Juano ignored the warning that he was being a lousy journo-pundit.  Frankly, NPR ought to have fired him for being a lousy journo-pundit, and one with split loyalties to two employers, a year ago.

    Thus, he was fired not for beginning to be a lousy journo-pundit but for continuing to be a lousy journo-pundit, despite the warning.  With that context, you okay with it, kdog?


    Believe me... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:20:17 AM EST
    I ain't gonna call NPR on Williams' behalf...but it kinda smells like getting Al Capone on tax evasion:)

    You (none / 0) (#11)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:15:22 AM EST
    addressed your question to kdog, but let me give you my response as well.

    If he was fired for the fact that Fox continued to identify as an NPR analyst, I would ask if that was his fault. Why isn't Fox the culprit?

    Fired for "split loyalties"? What is that? If both of those organizations hired him, why is it his fault? Maybe he felt no loyalty to either of those employers. I know I wouldn't.

    As to your other point - that he was fired for being a lousy journalist... Well - where do I begin. What "journalist" on cable wouldn't I fire if the criterion was lousyness?

    I personally am not OK with his having been fired based on what he expressed about seeing Muslims on a plane. As I said above, it reminds me of the knee-jerk reaction to Shirley Sherrod's statement concerning her personal prejudices and her manner of dealing with them.


    Counter argument (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:51:30 AM EST
    NPR's ethic code is pretty restrictive.

    9. NPR journalists must get permission from the Vice President for their Division or their designee to appear on TV or other media. It is not necessary to get permission in each instance when the employee is a regular participant on an approved show. Permission for such appearances may be revoked if NPR determines such appearances are harmful to the reputation of NPR or the NPR participant.

    10. 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 rather than fact-based analysis  

    Mr. Williams agreed to abide by the ethics code as  a condition of his employment and received a prior warnings that he was jeopardizing that employment with his appearancess on Fox. IMO he was fired because he failed to abide by NPR's ethic code. His choice IMO.


    Yep. And thanks for the good find (none / 0) (#18)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:05:45 PM EST
    that makes explicit what any employee ought to know.

    Principle is what an employer (none / 0) (#14)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:33:55 AM EST
    says it is, not the high-minded and estimable principles you espouse for a far better world than the one in which we work -- and where we work for bosses who make the rules.

    Williams had a choice to make; Williams accepts his employment contract and conditions, or Williams negotiates a change if needed.  He chose Fox, his loyalties were with Fox and its ways, whether he -- or you -- admit it or not.

    Fox is not the culprit in this case, for once.

    Note that I'm not weighing in on what Williams said, from my perspective, because mine doesn't matter.  It's NPR's perspective that matters, the employer's perspective.

    Oh, and lousy journalists are being fired left and right, from the left and right, in this economy -- and are fired in just about any economy, dependent upon supply and demand.  So expect more to be fired, even from cable, with all these shots across the bow . . . but not as much as elsewhere in media, because teevee advertising (not, note, teevee journalism, i.e.,  teevee content) is coming back better than other outlets.  Sadly, of course, that means a lot of good journalists are being fired, as well, and not for any lack of responsibility or loyalty on their part.  The best ones just cost too much -- from the employer's perspective, which is the only principle that matters in media, now more than ever.


    I was (none / 0) (#22)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:20:00 PM EST
    unaware that Williams was fired because of a breach of contract.
    I was under the impression that he was fired because of what he said.

    As for the "best" journalists costing too much...
    In my idealized world influenced by the past - people like Murrow and I.F Stone - I never got the impression that it was about money. They had integrity and a desire to serve the people. Nowadays, it seems to me that the gig is defined as being a conduit and carnival barker for the government. Little different than those freaks who make infomercials for blenders.

    The best journalist on the air, imo, is Amy Goodman. I doubt she is raking in the dough.

    Money is the root of all the evil in the journalistic world.
    The symbol of success is the paycheck, not the effect on society by providing it with real information without fear or favor.


    Well, I don't know how else to put it (none / 0) (#26)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 07:49:31 PM EST
    but a breach of contract requires an action to breach it.

    You are saying (none / 0) (#29)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:25:23 PM EST
    that he was fired for breach of contract.
    But that's not what Williams says.
    He says that he was told that what he said about his feelings upon seeing people in Muslim garb on a plane making him nervous is what got him fired.

    I would be interested in a link to some story that gives the version you are saying - that he was fired for breach of contract.
    If that is the case, there is no story. But imo those would have to be pretty nutty contracts.

    As I mentioned before, I get nervous when I see any religious symbols being prominently displayed in any public setting. To me, organized religions all have a cult feeling to them. I am nervous around cults. I don't get a good feeling when I see nuns or priests. I don't identify with Hassids dovening on planes either. It makes me nervous because I don't know what they're doing and it is an activity unrelated to flying from one place to another. Even if they were praying for a safe trip, it makes me nervous.

    But I don't feel that they're dangerous. If Juan thinks that, he's out of his mind. People identifying themselves are cultists are more apt to be thoroughly searched and patted down. The dangerous ones are the ones who look like Mr. and Mrs. Jones from the neighborhood. The ones who wouldn't hurt a fly.


    See my comment to yet another (none / 0) (#30)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:35:24 PM EST
    query from you and google about it.

    And maybe you will understand NPR's discomfort with him if you google for the background on the quote that started to get him warnings and into hot water.  Or perhaps you see no problem in the parallel between Stokely Carmichael and the First Lady.  Not a free speech problem -- an internal problem for NPR.

    Why is it so hard for you to understand how it is in the world of work?  You just blog all the time and never had a job that required behaviors of you?

    And by the way, this is nothing at all new to Williams; every media outlet for which he has worked for almost four decades follows the same professional code of ethics.  Go google it.


    I googled (none / 0) (#31)
    by lentinel on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 03:19:16 AM EST
    "Juan Williams fired breach of contract...."

    All I get is that he was fired because of what he said.
    Nothing appeared about a contract having been breached.

    Can you suggest a phrase that I could google to arrive at the conclusion that you did - that he was fired because he referred to himself as an analyst for NPR during appearances on Fox?

    I just keep feeling that he was fired for saying that he gets nervous when he sees people in full Muslim regalia on planes. I think it was a dumb comment because, as I said, a potential Muslim saboteur would be more likely to hide their identity rather than boldly announcing it. But I still think he had a right to express how he feels.

    I don't mind him being canned... but when I think of people like Pat Robertson and the bile he spews while receiving tax exempt status, I think there are better targets for our outrage than Williams. The worst you could say about him is that he is kind of dumb and is a conservative in liberal sheep's clothing. But I feel that way about NPR and PBS as well.


    For pity's sake, find your owns (none / 0) (#32)
    by Cream City on Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 10:17:28 AM EST
    search words, then.  Whatever I used, I found all the info on the NPR contract, the NPR warnings, etc.  You do the work.  You weary me.

    What's entertaining about the NPR story you (none / 0) (#4)
    by rhbrandon on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 07:07:02 AM EST
    linked to is the quote (repeated here, my apologies):

    O'Reilly has been looking for support for his own remarks on a recent episode of ABC's The View in which he directly blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Someone in the NPR news shop was out to send him out with a kick to the rear.

    The concise version that sentence is

    "Williams was only too happy to agree with O'Reilly's racist remarks."

    The scary Southern white male version of that sentence would be:

    "Bless your heart, and I'll pray for you."

    He worries about people dressed (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:44:59 AM EST
    as Muslims when he is on a plane? If I see them I figure they must be the finest members of the Muslim community, people of kindness and charity that I can't even fathom or they probably couldn't even get on the plane.  I remember crossing the border into Canada when I experienced a bad shake down, they tossed my car and then I had to go into the main building and speak to someone who allowed me to cross.  I don't know what would have happened to me if I was deemed more suspect for some reason.  I was nervous too, I was alone.  I walked past two men and two women who were dressed in clothing that I guess some would identify as being Muslim, but who knows...it was only the women dressed differently and it was only head scarves.  They were sitting and waiting for something and they looked scared and confused and I remember thinking to myself they were going to be there all day probably just trying to cross.

    What kind of ridiculous form of PC religion (none / 0) (#10)
    by Slado on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:11:45 AM EST
    must you believe in to think this is Ok?

    Juan only admitted to his own irrational fears.   He didn't say all Muslims are terrorists.  He indeed said the opposite.

    If they wanted to fire him because he's on Fox then just do it.

    Don't look for the first PC safety hatch.

    Juan Williams has been billed (none / 0) (#21)
    by MKS on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 02:17:40 PM EST
    as the Democrat or Liberal on Fox.  That is nonsense.....

    One good result from all this is that Williams will be more correctly labeled going forward....


    The same one where Helen Thomas (none / 0) (#25)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 05:41:14 PM EST
    was fired for her comments on Israel, I don't remember much grumbling from conservatives when that happened, but much joy on that side of the blogsphere when it happened.

    This was the legal out (none / 0) (#27)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 07:51:08 PM EST
    -- the action that NPR needed, since it had okayed his stint at Fox, but then clearly became increasingly uncomfortable (with increasing warnings) about it.

    Yes, the Helen Thomas incident (none / 0) (#28)
    by Harry Saxon on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 08:13:07 PM EST
    was a one-off remark when compared to Mr. Williams' record, and by the letter and spirit of the NPR ethics code, it was a firing offense.