DENVER — This weekend’s Western Conservative Summit has no shortage of right-wing luminaries, but the warmest reception so far has gone to the event’s most liberal speaker.
Juan Williams, the Fox News Channel analyst who typically leans left, received standing ovations both before and after his remarks—as well as bursts of applause in between—from the packed house of about 1,000 stalwart conservatives at the Denver Marriott City Center.
Mr. Williams recounted the story of his controversial firing from National Public Radio in October over his televised comment about feeling apprehensive when he sees Muslims in traditional garb at airports. He called for being more frank and less judgmental in public debate.
“People are quick to punish, to marginalize, to tell you it’s wrong to say what’s on your mind,” said Mr. Williams.
He inadvertently drew the biggest laugh of the morning when he said he thought his career in journalism might be finished because NPR is “such a big and much-loved brand.” That comment prompted howls from the audience, given NPR’s contentious relationship with the conservative movement.
The three-day summit, organized by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, wraps up Sunday with the results of a straw poll. The ballot lists 10 announced and unannounced candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
One of the unannounced but potential hopefuls, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, criticized the Obama administration in remarks Saturday for its blase approach to foreign policy.
Pressed on whether he would enter the contest, Mr. Bolton said, “I feel very passionately that the protection of the United States in the world is the president’s highest obligation. And we’ve got a president who’s not doing it.”