One for Williams

22 Oct

The right wing has its OUTRAGEOUS OUTRAGE of the day®.  It’s usually something picked off of Drudge and then a game of telephone blows it out of all proportion by the time it gets to the wingnut sites or talk radio.  The current outrageous outrage is NPR’s “firing” of Juan Williams.

Here’s what Williams said:

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. 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.


He went on, however:

“Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy.”

The Daily Beast runs with the idea that Williams was fired because he said those words on Fox News.  NPR told Williams that his termination occurred because,

Ellen Weiss, NPR’s head of news, suggested that he “had made a bigoted statement,” which Williams denied. He said he asked her in the cell-phone discussion: “I don’t even get a chance to come in and we do this eyeball-to-eyeball, person-to-person, have a conversation? I’ve been here more than 10 years.”

Weiss’ response, according to Williams: “There’s nothing you can say that would change my mind. This decision has been made above me.”

So, so what?  Who cares?  NPR is free to hire and fire people as it sees fit.  Just like Fox News is free to pick Williams up for a new $2 million contract yesterday.  It doesn’t matter why NPR fired him, or under what circumstances or rationale.  It’s amazing what a weak grasp of the 1st Amendment the ignoranti have, crying out for Williams’ free speech!  (You don’t have a constitutional right to an NPR gig).

It’s suddenly become vogue to declare oneself as not being politically incorrect – Carl Paladino’s entire campaign is based on that trend.   That’s all well and good, and the government can’t force you to think one way or another.  But when you quite openly state that you hold a prejudice over someone because of the way they dress, because their religion or culture mandates it, ask yourself how it would go over if you criticized Hasidic Jews for their appearance, or the Amish, or any other culture that is out of the mainstream.   Does he reach for his wallet when he sees a Hasidim? Does he whip out his camera when he sees some Amish?  Does he fear molestation when he sees someone in a priest’s collar?  Does he [insert stereotype here] when he sees a [insert minority group here]?

Saying something bigoted, ignorant, or prejudiced is what ought to be socially unacceptable – not saying it and then attacking “political correctness”.  Frankly, we’re not even talking about “politics” in this case – we’re just talking about being a rational, thinking human being.

Much of what I’m seeing and hearing on Facebook or on the radio excoriates NPR for firing Williams for merely parroting what a lot of people think.  So, if a lot of people are prejudiced, it’s ok for you to be prejudiced, too?

Part of what the terrorists who want to kill civilians do is blend into the surroundings.  The last thing a terrorist would do is dress as if he were in downtown Peshawar in order to commit mass murder in the states.  So, the “fear” that Williams has is dumb, to boot.

Sometimes what becomes a firestorm goes beyond silly and into stupid territory.  Go ahead and “de-fund” NPR – an organization that does not receive any direct federal funding, and only sees federal money indirectly through grants, representing a whopping 1 – 3% of its total budget. It helps to listen to what NPR’s CEO says about it:

Q: Okay. What happened?

A: Let’s state a couple of facts. Juan is not an employee of NPR. He’s an independent contractor. He’s not NPR staff. He’s an NPR analyst. We have a contract with him for analyst opinions to provide news analysis. He is not a columnist or commentator. He also has an on-going relationship with Fox News. Mara Liasson is also on Fox News and is a full-time staffer. We accept that’s a whole other issue. However, we expect our journalists, whether they are news analysts or reporters to behave like journalists.

Q: So did Juan really get fired over just those Muslim comments? [He said he was uncomfortable with Muslims dressed in traditional garb on airplanes during a Fox News telecast yesterday.]

A: There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line. He famously said last year something about Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael. [The quote on Fox News early last year: “Michelle Obama, you know, she’s got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going” and that she’ll be an “albatross” for President Obama.]. This isn’t a case of one strike and you’re out.

There you have it.  Williams wasn’t even an NPR employee.  Time to get ready for tomorrow’s Outrageous Outrage of the Day®.


35 Responses to “One for Williams”

  1. Jesse October 22, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    “(You don’t have a constitutional right to an NPR gig)”

    Curious statement, Alan, considering your apparent belief that there IS some kind of First Amendment right to know who’s criticizing a political figure…

  2. Hapklein October 22, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    I think it is amusing that the management at NPR works so hard to demonstrate their stunted imaginations.
    Much of this is the grope to mediocrity NPR seems intent to reach through absolutely pure political correctness. The attacks by right wing jerks and accusations of “Liberal Prejudice,” do work and by avoiding confrontation you produce absolute pre-digested pablum.
    It is sad that no central common ground exists to create dialogue and exchange views. We are building separate world of polar views each ensconced in separate polar blog views.
    But on the other hand I have expressed my self in conservative circles and to attempt this develop a very thick skin.
    Juan is going to take a lot of people with him. If he spoke of the non-white culture and views he always was worth listening to.

  3. Bbill October 22, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    He should have been fired long ago for his association with FoxNews – by taking a gig there he forfeits all credibility and should not be on the payroll of any legitimate media outlet. Mara Liasson should get the gate as well.

    Of course this episode gives the wingers an opportunity to whine and play the victim card and they sure love doing that!

  4. Brian Castner October 22, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    Just because Christine O’Donnell is running in Delaware, does everything between the right and left need to be about the 1st Amendment now? Of course that’s not the issue. Here’s the issues:

    1) NPR bills itself as the nation’s unpolitical radio when clearly it is not. Its disingenuous, to put it mildly. If they want to have an agenda, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t get an in with federal funding, even if its only $3.3M a year. I mean, their new ad campaign is that they are radio for Smart People, which is I love, but its also feeding the current Right/Left, Crazy/Rational, Retarded/Smart meme that keeps anyone from being to have a conversation with someone they don’t agree with. Which leads me to . . .

    2) The Left has Thought Police. I mean, its not like Juan Williams is Pat Buchanon. He’s a consistent Liberal voice with an interest in race-relations and civil rights. But he has the gall to go on the other side’s TV shows, and speak with them, and say things slightly out of line. He didn’t even say it on NPR!! Why should NPR care what Williams says somewhere else, when it is not illegal or hate speech. It was the most mildly discriminatory (and honest) statement, and taken partially out of context. NPR could have had a conversation with someone they don’t agree with 100% of the time. Instead, CEO Vivian Schiller said that NPR anaylysts should not have controversioanl opinions. They preserved the echo chamber. Good job – way to serve the public good.

  5. joker October 22, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    The difference between NPR and FOX News, other than the obvious ideological one, is that NPR is supported with money that comes out of our taxes. Juan Williams, a fine journalist whose biography of Thurgood Marshall is the standard reference, also happens to be a black man, a demographic woefully under represented not only at NPR but at most major news organizations. His firing had nothing to do with journalistic ethics and everything to do with fascism.

  6. BobbyCat October 22, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    I’m a liberal. I liked listening to Williams when he was on Agronsky & Co. (or one of those talking heads show) but I lost respect for him when he whored-out to Fox News. Nevertheless he should not have been fired from NPR. The statement by NPR’s CEO made her sound like an asshole.

    We all have our biases, prejudices and vices. I’ll bet a lot of liberals and conservatives alike get nervous when they see Muslim garb on an airplane. That doesn’t make them bigots, necessarily, just human. It’s irrational to think that any terrorists would be dressed in Muslim garb but our fears are often irrational. I give Juan Williams credit for admitting to irrational fears. Most Americans, left or right, have them, but that doesn’t mean its politically correct to talk about them. Far from it.

    You have not seen any situation comedy on TV about two homosexual men living as lovers. Watching two men kissing on TV would upset most Americans, me included. The sitcom “Frasier” came close. Frasier was a comedy based about two gay brothers living with their father, but they weren’t called gay in the script. Frasiert was written by two well-know hollywood writers who happened to by gay. (But that’s no big deal because most hollywood writers are gay). It was a well-written, good comedy but every TV exec knew that it would never sell as a gay comedy, so they acted out the gay(ish) scripts while the actors walked the line and played it straight.. Nobody got fired.

    Obviously, Americans have a lot of biases. Try having any rational discussion of any sexuality (straight or otherwise) in the Buffalo media. It’s aint happening.

    I think its better to talk about our biases than keep them buried. Too bad ol Juan he got canned. National Public Radio just handed the right some golden talking points/fodder on the eve of a big election. Stupid, stupid,stupid.

  7. Hank October 22, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Absolutely fucking amazing. Kos comes out against what NPR did to Juan. Arianna Huffington does too. So do Whoopi and Joy Behar, who showed their own level of bias by walking out on O’Reilly himself.
    And where, in the name is all that is holy, can anyone who lives in this country thinks that a man can’t give his personal opinion ABOUT ANY ONE OR ANY THING, ANY FUCKING WHERE HE WANTS, needs to pack up his toys and GET THE FUCK OUT.

    I disagree with Juan Williams about 90% of the time. In fact, I once said if I heard lis liver lips say “Weapons of Mass Destruction” one more fucking time, I was gonna go to DC and an accidental discharge of my firearm would remove one of his kneecaps, just for being a contrary fuck.

    However, he has my respect.Juan and Mara provided the “Liberal Balance” on Special Report and on Fox News Sunday. When Juan is host on O’Reilly when he’s out of town, he runs a much more civil and balanced hour than O’Reilly does. Bottom line is the PC culture has eaten another of it’s own, and it’s shameful. And now the chickens come home to roost, as both sides of the political spectrum go after “Radio for Smart People” as they now consider themselves both liberal AND elitist. I never expected Alan to applaud someone getting fired for expressing a PERSONAL opinion, and NOT where he worked. Perhaps Alan’s lucky he isn’t an associate or partner in a law firm. So much of the ass vomit that is written here would guarantee him rolling right out the door, with no golden parachute. Shame on all of you.

    • Alan Bedenko October 22, 2010 at 11:45 am #

      Right, Hank. Juan can express any personal opinion he wants.

      Likewise, NPR is free to shitcan anyone associated with NPR it wants, at any time.

  8. Mike In WNY October 22, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    NPR is just perpetuating the liberal left’s propensity for censorship.

  9. Chris Smith October 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    The reaction from both sides of the political spectrum is very predictable.  Sarah Palin said on the twitters said that NPR needs to be “refudiated” and liberals are screaming “Bigot!” from the rooftops.

    This is an interesting time for journalism, when people are being held to account for having opinions.  NPR was certainly within their rights as an employer to fire Williams for any reason they choose, but this constant pursuit for the innocent center is not a good trend for journalism.  This meme that journalists can’t hold opinions and also report honestly is absolute crap and it’s a reaction to forty years of Nixonian crying about the so-called “liberal media”.

    Helen Thomas was unceremoniously fired for having an opinion on Israel and Palestine, Rick Sanchez was fired for a verbal misstep about Jews in the media during an interview and now Juan Williams is axed for airing a personal prejudice.  It’s all crap and it’s killing honesty in journalism.

  10. joker October 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    The Helen Thomas firing was despicable, the Sanchez firing a bit less so. But in those two cases, the firing was done by corporations not funded by the American taxpayer, many of whom — like Williams — have felt some anxiety about getting on a plane with people “dressed in Muslim garb” in the wake of 9/11. Williams was fired by an adjunct of the American government for telling the truth. Pundit’s casual dismissal of this, based on his own, predictable, knee jerk, leftist ideology, simply demonstrates the problem he has for the truth when it doesn’t fit his dogma.

    That aside, I find myself happily surprised to agree with bobbyCat about anything. Perhaps there is some hope, after all.

    • Christopher Smith October 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

      @Joker, it’s not the “truth”, it was bigotry. Conflating the extreme with the general is the veritable definition of bigotry. Also, this meme that NPR is an “adjunct” of the government is just silly. They receive funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which receives federal grants. I could reasonably make an argument that NBC and other outlets receive similar funding from the government based on tax breaks, advertising dollars, and funding for their tangential lines of business.

      The point being that the hyperpursuit of innocent objectivity by media outlets is hurting our national discourse. Journalists and analysts aren’t there to simply call balls and strikes, they’re there to tell a story and help the consumer draw a conclusion from the information presented.

    • Alan Bedenko October 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

      @joker – the CEO of NPR is not “an adjunct of the American government”, a point made quite clearly in the original post. So, you either didn’t read it, didn’t click the link to verify that fact, or choose to ignore it. Either way, it’s intellectually dishonest and pretty much renders pointless anything else you have to say about the matter. Have a great day!

  11. BobbyCat October 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Let’s distinguish between ‘journalists’ who are taught to be non-biased, and ‘commentators’ who are paid to opine.

    Cronkite was the gold standard of the Tiffany Network journalists. If Cronkite so much as lifted an eyebrow during the Evening News, it made headlines the next day. But Eric Severeid sitting across the desk from Cronkite , gave his opinions three times a week and nobody complained.

    Today Fox News has demolished the line between journalism and commentary, and even between truth and lies. On Fox News, nothing is fair and balanced and much of it is spin, and some of it are outright lies. The rest of the legitimate media don’t know what to say about Fox. They are paralyzed, afraid to call them out, afraid to admit that Fox is not a news network but an arm of the GOP.

    There is nothing wrong with commentary or opinion, as long as you label it as such. But don’t pretend to be apolitical when you are political. and don’t pretend to be “news” network when you are spewing propaganda. .

  12. Tom Dolina October 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Perhaps he just wanted a better hand in negotiating a new contract with Fox? It worked, afterall.

  13. Ward October 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m sure things will smooth out at National Progressive Radio, now that it’s been purchased by 0bama’s boss, George Soros, for $1.8 million.

  14. joker October 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Alan…Is NPR partially funded through the government of the United States by the American taxpayer or is it not? If it is, and I believe it is, than anything anyone says about it not being part of the government by anyone is bullshit. NASA doesn’t get all of its funding from the government either, but saying it’s not a part of the government would be absurd. You have a nice day too, and on your drive home, enjoy the publicly funded propaganda on NPR while you can!

    • Alan Bedenko October 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

      Joker: it’s a shame you won’t read. I’ve answered your question. In the original post. You’re just being deliberately ignorant.

  15. Mike In WNY October 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    The government has spent the last 9 years waging a fear campaign based on Muslim terrorists attacking us in order to increase its power at the expense of our freedom. It is no wonder that Williams feels the way he does. It would have been unacceptable if he had advocated treating Muslims on airlines differently, that would have been bigotry. His feelings were not. If anything, the outrage expressed at Williams is misdirected and should be considered an indictment of U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

  16. Matt October 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Muslim garb? I’m pretty sure Mohammed Atta was dressed in “Western garb”

  17. Hapklein October 22, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    When you really consider his statement Juan was stupid but not prejudicial. Heck any terrorist will not be dressed in Arab dress in that situation. In fact I think I would be prone to be relaxed in that particular situation.
    I flew in from Minneapolis a couple of months ago and I noticed a tall, pale faced and very intense young man who really made me nervous. After the flight I laughed to myself with the realization that anonymity is the best mask for evil doers.
    But for Juan he made an opinion linking cultural dress and possible threat and supposedly it was prejudicial. I don’t agree.
    I don’t ever watch Fox and missed his comments there but I do know on NPR he often anticipated shifts and trends in the non-white world that white commentators copied a week later.
    He is smart, he does his homework and he is articulate. I can’t imagine how incongruous he will be in Fox World.

  18. Matt October 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    @Hapklein: “linking cultural dress and possible threat” isn’t prejudicial?

  19. joker October 22, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    @Pundit…So is the link you’re referring to the first one, in which the woman who fired Juan Williams — Vivian Schiller — explains why it’s OK she fired Juan Williams?

    And who cares? It’s only been on the nightly network news for two days running and has been the 24-7 topic du jour on all three cable news networks. I guess that means nobody cares.

    • Alan Bedenko October 23, 2010 at 7:40 am #

      @Joker: yes. The part where she explains which branch of the guvmint she reports to:

      There’s a misperception about federal funding and public radio. There’s the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They receive $90 million a year and a vast majority goes to member public radio stations. Those stations pull in more than $1 billion collectively a year. It’s significant and important but not even close to the lion’s share of revenues for public radio. NPR gets no allocation from CPB. Zero. We are a private 501(c)3. We’ve had journalists call up and ask what department of the government we report to. That’s laughable. Have you listened to our shows? We do apply for competitive grants from the likes of the Ford Foundation and the Knight Foundation. As a result, some money from CPB does come to us when we win grants. Depending on the year, it represents just one to three percent of our total budget.

      Q: What is your annual budget?

      A: $160 million a year from station fees and dues, corporate underwriting, philanthropic contributions from individuals and corporation and earned income and earnings from our endowment.

      And just because journalists are agog over the handling of another journalist’s termination doesn’t mean it matters to anyone else.

  20. Bbill October 23, 2010 at 8:21 am #

    And where, in the name is all that is holy, can anyone who lives in this country thinks that a man can’t give his personal opinion ABOUT ANY ONE OR ANY THING, ANY FUCKING WHERE HE WANTS, needs to pack up his toys and GET THE FUCK OUT.

    This is either A. straw man B. a suggestion that Williams’ 1st Amendment rights were violated or C. the notion that nobody should be accountable for their words. Right wing rhetoric FAIL

  21. Carl October 23, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Ward just LOVES to revel in ignorance.

    Just like a lot of his fellow travelers on the right…

  22. Mike In WNY October 23, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    NPR’s action to silence opinion and free speech actually assists the cause of terrorists.

  23. joker October 23, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    OK Pundit…NPR recieves no direct funding from the federal government but does recieve funding from member stations, which do recieve direct funding from the federal government. And NPR has absolutely nothing to do with the federal government even though it was created, along with PBS, by an act of Congress in 1970. I think I’m pretty clear on NPR’s non-relationship with the federal government now. Think I’ll go read some Orwell.

    • Alan Bedenko October 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks, Joker!

      I wonder if Juan Williams thinks it’s cool when people lock their car doors or grip their purse/wallet when they see a black guy wearing a hoodie come near.

  24. Brian Castner October 23, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Actually Alan, William’s firing caused more of a stir at NPR than any other news story ever: I think plenty of non-media types care, for and against.

  25. Max October 24, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    This is yet another indictor of the fracturing of the media – and society in general – into separate camps – where such things as ‘centrist’ views are held in contempt in lieu of a ‘fringe’ purity test. Too bad; NPR lost the services of a solid, credible journalist.

  26. Randy October 24, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    Wow. You can rationalize anything can’t you? So what does it say about the journalistic integrity of NPR when they allow other “journalists” to remain employed while advocating for opposing political figures or their grandchildren to contract AIDS from a transfusion? Those were acceptable and demonstrated good journalism, or a fair and balanced opinion? They can fire anyone they want. The point is who they choose to fire and who they do not. Betrays their agenda, not their journalism.

  27. Hank October 25, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    Juan was (Again) the only black male on the air for NPR. Now, they’re lilly white. Liberal Elites LIKE IT THAT WAY. The black population is in their minds a sub species that needs their needs cared for by rich white folks, spending other people’s money. Again, how many seats at the table for black males at NPR? ZERO—Same as in the leadership of the Democratic Party.

    • Alan Bedenko October 25, 2010 at 11:00 am #

      NPR is “lilly white?” That’ll come as news to Michele Norris, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Korva Coleman, Felix Contreras, Corey Dade, Mandalit del Barco, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Vertamae Grosvenor, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Marisa Penaloza, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Claudio Sanchez, Lakshmi Singh, Morning Edition’s Executive Producer, Madhulika Sikka, and Cornel West.

  28. Rob October 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    Juan Williams in 1986, on the “Jeweler’s Dilemma” and prejudice:

    Racism is a lazy man’s substitute for using good judgment . . . In this situation (should a woman fear getting on an elevator with a black man?) and all others, common sense in my constant guard. Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me.

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