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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