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Why NPR Was Wrong to Fire Juan Williams

4 years ago
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NPR had the right to fire Juan Williams over his comments on "The O'Reilly Factor," but they shouldn't have done it.

Williams, of course, made the tactical mistake of admitting that -- right or wrong -- he sometimes has fears about Muslims on airplanes.

As Williams said to O'Reilly:
I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality. 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.
In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder said that when it comes to race, the America is "essentially a nation of cowards."

He was right. Whether it's discussing race or religion, it seems being a coward is the safest and most prudent decision one can make. Clearly, having an honest discussion is fraught with danger. Williams, after all, was fired by NPR for admitting to an emotion that, let's be frank, many Americans share.

Why does this matter? Williams put it well: "political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality." Simply put, as long as people are afraid of being real, we are unlikely to solve our problems.

But even if one were to concede that Williams attitude and comments were inappropriate, is firing him the right response?

As others have suggested, NPR should have instead invited him on one of its programs to debate and discuss his fears. Something positive might have come from that, but just as Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar chose to storm of the set of "The View" during a recent appearance by O'Reilly, the politically correct guide to debate often involves cutting off discussion, not encouraging more of it.

It's also important to note that Williams' comments are being selectively edited. Watching the full clip in context demonstrates that his remarks were much more nuanced than they might first appear.

Watch the full clip. In fact, Williams actually spent much of his time advocating for tolerance:

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Juan Williams is a good guy, a person whose insight I have respected. NPR "acted stupidly", they were wrong.

October 22 2010 at 4:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This superb article illustrates the great liberal crisis in America via the unjustified censorship and firing of Juan Williams by NPR. So much of our American dilemma is concisely depicted in this collective report that this may be the best news article that I have read this year. Nearly all of our current major issues are rooted in the facts presented in this text and the O’Reilly video clip. This is an opportunity for America to acknowledge the great failure of the far-left liberal “agenda” and to cease our cowardliness. Race, religion, freedom are issues to be discussed freely without qualifications. A standing ovation for Lewis and the O’Reilly guests is in order!

October 22 2010 at 9:56 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Should CNN have fired Rick Sanchez?

October 21 2010 at 10:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Board of Directors of NPR need to take the high ground here and admit they made a mistake by firing the CEO. Juan Williams is neither a bigot nor racist. NPR's image and reputation is at stake -- the management of NPR should recognize that. Failure to take appropriate corrective action will only serve as proof that they are out of touch with the "public" they are supposed to represent.

October 21 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Executives Weiss and Schiller of NPR have failed in their duty to exercise wisdom in assuring a range of opinions may be examined without political censorship. i am deeply disappointed and feel the wrong job was lost here.

October 21 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

So did Obama...

October 21 2010 at 7:00 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I find it totally wrong for them to have fired him over the phone. Is that the new thing? Call someone up and fire them? Totally inappropriate. I get the feeling that NPR may have been thinking about letting him go all along and this was the catalyst. What better reason?

October 21 2010 at 5:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

What happened to freedom of speech?

October 21 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jcarrhall's comment

Liberals dont believe in it.

October 21 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

If people truly looked deep within themselves he/she would have to admit to certain fears. This includes profiling of people, all people. As far as Juan Williams is concerned, I valued the fact that he gave an honest opinion for what he believed. I am more toward the Conservative views, but I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Williams. Perhaps NPR should have listened to the entire discussion. Mr. Williams , I thank you for your many insights, and will continue to listen to you...

October 21 2010 at 3:53 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

Well, NPR did a pretty cowardly thing last week banning their employees from attending the Stewart/Colbert event in DC. They pandered to the left this week because they pandered to the right last week. Two wrongs don't make a right, people.

October 21 2010 at 2:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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