Following National Public Radio’s firing of its news analyst Juan Williams, for remarks he made on the Fox News Channel about feeling nervous when he sees individuals dressed “in Muslim garb” on airplanes, an outcry from conservatives over the Fox News contributor’s ouster ensued. However, other voices are beginning to speak up for Mr. Williams as well.
Sirius-XM Radio host Howard Stern wondered aloud on the air today why Mr. Williams was fired after his co-host Robin Quivers read the news story regarding NPR’s termination of Mr. Williams. Mr. Stern then went on to criticize hosts Whoopie Goldberg and Joy Behar for walking off the set of “The View” after asking Fox News host Bill O’Reilly why he thought people do not want the Ground Zero mosque to be built: (AUDIO HERE)
STERN: Because he said when he gets on a plane, he sometimes gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb…that honesty? You gotta be kidding me. Are we going nuts in this country?
QUIVERS: Well I just read a poll that many, many Americans are getting very tired of political correctness, and they think its causing a problem.
STERN: It is causing a problem. I mean Bill O’Reilly…I don’t need to defend Bill O’Reilly.
QUIVERS: Well Bill O’Reilly doesn’t need any defending. He still has his job.
STERN: But, but…what he said wasn’t inaccurate. These women ask him why he thinks people are so sensitive to this mosque being built, and he said because Muslims bombed us. They drove planes into the towers.
QUIVERS: But once again, Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have a problem. Juan Williams has a problem.
STERN: But I can see why. Whoopie and Joy Behar ran off the show over this. Personally, to run off your own show over this is wild.
Interestingly, all the women of “The View” were critical of NPR’s firing of Mr. Williams as well.
Howard Kurtz (The Daily Beast) believes if Mr. Williams made the same comments on PBS, there would have been a different outcome :
Did National Public Radio really fire Juan Williams for his remarks about Muslims—or the forum in which he made them?
I suspect that if he’d said the same thing to Charlie Rose, rather than on the O’Reilly Factor, he’d still have his radio job.
It’s no secret that some NPR folks have been uncomfortable with Williams’ role on Fox News, where he’s also a part-time commentator. Last year, Politico reported, NPR tried to persuade its White House correspondent, Mara Liasson, to give up her Fox gig.
What Williams said makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t close to being a firing offense—not for someone who is paid for his opinions.
Additionally, Mr. Kurtz is reporting through Twitter that Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile and liberal columnist Joan Walsh are also “among those criticizing NPR for dumping Juan Williams.”
David Swerdick at The Root, while critical of Mr. Williams’ remarks, believes the timing of NPR’s firing of Mr. Williams’ makes the tax-payer funded radio station look biased:
Opinions are like a*****s — everybody has one — and maybe that’s what Williams looked like after the “Muslim garb” bit. But he isn’t there reporting hard news. He’s on Fox and NPR to offer his opinion, and that’s ultimately what he did. He shouldn’t lose his job for doing it.
NPR’s own report says that his firing came in part because “Williams’ presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.” (NPR had already changed Williams’ title from “staff correspondent” to “news analyst” after he described the first lady as “Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress.”)
NPR’s problem now is that whether or not it’s what they intended, they’ve made it look as if they can’t handle a certain point of view. People think of NPR as a liberal outlet, and dumping Williams opens them up to the charge that they’re biased. The backlash has started, with Fox’s Mike Huckabee already saying that Congress should cut NPR’s funding because it’s a “purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left.” And that charge won’t stop with him.
This post will be updated as more information comes in. (Updated:10/22/10 5:17 PM Est.)