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My Opinion: NPR Shouldn't Have Hired Juan Williams in the First Place

3 years ago
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What is most offensive to me is not that National Public Radio fired Juan Williams, but that it hired him in the first place.
I have known Mr. Williams for more than two decades; we used to appear regularly as commentators on a Friday night news-of-the-week program produced by and aired on the Howard University-owned public TV station, now WHUT.
Juan attended a going-away party at my house for another commentator on that program -- Tony Snow -- when Snow left to join the first Bush administration as a speech writer many years ago.
I saw Juan on the street last summer and congratulated him on all his career success. It was a friendly exchange.
But truth be told, I was highly troubled by NPR's hiring of Juan a decade ago, since he had departed the Washington Post under such murky circumstances.
According to a 1991 Washington Post article which ran while he was still worked there:
"Washington Post Magazine reporter Juan Williams said yesterday that the newspaper has disciplined him for what he called 'wrong' and 'inappropriate' verbal conduct toward women staffers and he apologized to his colleagues.
In an open letter to the newsroom, Williams said: "It pained me to learn during the investigation that I had offended some of you. I have said so repeatedly in the last few weeks, and repeat here: some of my verbal conduct was
wrong, I now know that, and I extend my sincerest apology to those whom I offended. I have committed to Post management, and I commit to you -- and to myself -- to change my ways."
The Washington Post has never been completely forthcoming about what Juan Williams did that prompted the disciplinary action, nor why he ultimately left the paper. A more recent Dallas Morning News mention reveals more detail about what type of behavior Williams engaged in:
"While the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings were under way in 1991, Washington Post columnist Juan Williams emerged as one of Thomas's chief defenders. Williams minimized the gravity of Thomas's alleged sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Boys will be boys, after all. But it's no surprise Williams thought it was no big deal. At the time, he was involved in repeated episodes of sexual harassment in The Post newsroom. It was only after several women in the newsroom spoke up that The Post took action -- forcing Williams to sit in an isolated part of the newsroom where he could be watched at all times."
One wonders whether that punishment and the disciplinary action were enough. An online search fails to reveal any clear explanation of how and under what circumstances he left that venerated journalistic institution. I do recall that he joined a rather low-profile think tank after leaving the Post and that he was out of journalism for a period of time before being hired by NPR.

Given the serious allegations against him that were treated, in my mind and in the minds of fellow female journalists at the time, too lightly by the Post, I was saddened when NPR resurrected his reputation as a serious, credentialed journalist. It sent to me and many others, the message that sexual harassment is not taken seriously by the so-called boys on the bus. I even called a well-known female NPR employee when Juan was hired to make sure women at that organization knew about Juan's Post problems. She told me that indeed she and others had protested the potential hiring before it became a fait accompli. Their protests were not addressed.

Fox, and especially the Bill O'Reilly show, seem the perfect place for Juan Williams. Bill O'Reilly has had a rather well-documented bout with sexual harassment charges himself, for which many news organizations would have fired him. I have written about his legal dispute and settlement with his former producer, and he later mentioned me on his show mockingly on another topic. I found it rather amusing.

I am not claiming to be perfect. Far from it. I have made multiple mistakes as a journalist: not fact-checking thoroughly on one or more occasion, for starters. But as a woman who "came up" at a time when sexual discrimination was fairly rampant, I cannot forgive either NPR for hiring Mr. Williams nor The Post for its too-tepid response to his odd behavior toward women.
Filed Under: Media, Woman Up

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23 Comments

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craftlaw

bravo Bonnie Erbe.... Christine Craft

October 27 2010 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
themaskctf

Another example of the usual Democratic tactic of attacking the victim to deflect attention away from the perpetrators, who are in this case the always-liberal executives known as NPR. I rarely agree with Juan, but at least he presents his views in such a way that he makes you think about and at least consider his thoughts, unlike Ms. Erbe's diatribe above. Her elitist and deflective comments show, like Cutie has posted below, that Erbe's dismissive attitude reveals the typical liberal double standard: "your freedom of speech stops when it disagrees with mine". Her comments reaffirm that it is time to stop funding NPR with taxpayer dollars!!

October 25 2010 at 11:30 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

What the media on the left and right has failed to mention was that during the conversation between Williams snd O'Reilly he had said several times to be careful of stereotypes. That you can't just look at people his comment that he couldn't help it when he saw people in muslim garb at an airport he became nervous. He's been made to look like a bigot when he was expressing what happens to him. Are we suppose to tell Mr. Williams not to have feelings??? Any woman walking the street in the evening is nervous. Who isn't afraid of MS13 members?? Gangs of kids?? Skinheads?? but don't say it out loud you could get fired.

October 25 2010 at 10:42 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
snrar

The left is circling the wagons to protect the firing of Juan WIlliams by NPR . MSNBC the left wing medias darling commentators are quick to defend the firing knowing full well that there will be a move to defund NPR as of now . They saw what happened to Acorn so they are working to try and keep this to happing to NPR . Well I hope that NPR is defunded because the tax payers should not be funding a leftist organization like NPR .

October 24 2010 at 8:13 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

I noticed Bonnie, YOU were entitled to your opinion but Williams was not. That's the left for you, they can have opinions but fire people like Williams, Rick Sanchez, Lou Dobbs, Chris Core, Chris Plante, Andy Parks, Michael Graham, the crazy lady from Lebanon who told the Jews to go back to Poland (they had an award for her but it wasn't open to journalists, go figure). et al. Americans have become neurotic. Whatever happened to say what you want but be prepared to defend yourself??????????

October 23 2010 at 10:31 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dc walker's comment
compositomas

Everyone's entitled to have an opinion. We're not entitled to spew our opinions, then avoid all consequences. If Williams was talking about any other religious group, the bigotry of his statements would be obvious to all.

October 25 2010 at 2:27 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
judeduff

Compositomas, you're kidding, right? If Williams was talking about any other religious group, he not only would still have his job, he would have been promoted. Have you ever listened to NPR, visited their site, or listened to Totenburg's comments on the networks? If Williams had only said, "When I see two priests and a nun get on a plane, hugging their bibles, I get nervous," he would now be CEO of NPR. It's fine to spew your opinions on NPR in a cartoon about speaking teabag. It's fine to wish Jesse Helms grandkids would get AIDS. It's only a firable offense if you step outside the rigid liberal speak accepted by NPR. And this article calling up shadowy offenses from the deep, dark past to excuse NPR's behavior is just another example of how low journalistic integrity has fallen in this country.

October 25 2010 at 12:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
John Vilvens

This article is a personal attack on Juan Williams. If comments cannot be personal attacks how can a story that is no more than a personal attack be posted on PD? A simple answer would be fine.

October 23 2010 at 5:37 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
joper201

Like Joe Lieberman, Juan Williams stepped off the plantation of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. I think this may open Mr. Williams eyes to the viciousness of the political correct democrat party and possibly envious, politically correct reporters that are not as successful. By all accounts Williams is first and foremost a gentleman.

October 23 2010 at 5:04 AM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply
eyeforeye42

Juan is with his own now. Get over it. I'm sure he is making much more than he was at NPR so perhaps it is really a win win situation.. The only bigger story about media personnel moving was the Leno/Letterman moves of almost a generation ago and that was really news. Moving a guest reporter out isn't big news. I think NPR announcing that Juan was fired (more or less) was a cold turkey approach that got more news than it deserved. That said, move on. I'll survive just fine without Juan on my radio, really. Hey, I still miss Red Barber. But he was a something guy. Juan leaves me with nothing. More like a pebble tossed into the water. His ripple wave is all ready fading.

October 23 2010 at 4:31 AM Report abuse -13 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eyeforeye42's comment
judeduff

I will assume that if you express a feeling outside of work that your boss doesn't like and you are fired for it, you will be just as nonchalant about that situation, too. After all, you are less than a pebble to all of us, so why should we care if you are treated fairly?

October 25 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Hoosier Jim

Frankly, after this npr fiasco, the station will die a quick death due to lack of support and funding. And rightfully so. The same holds true for PBS TV stations. There is NO REASON why the gov't should be subsidizing these liberal stations with OUR tax dollars. It must end.

October 23 2010 at 1:07 AM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply
pamav3

Here we go again .. You have made several charges against Williams and also O'Raily..Can you prove anything?.. Can you publish facts?.. Smears, simply smears. Really sad when we, as a society allow someone with a pencil or a computer attack and destroys one's reputation because they think different.

October 23 2010 at 12:25 AM Report abuse +24 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pamav3's comment
skipperwo1

Maybe that is the reason she hasn't had more SUCESS!!!

October 23 2010 at 8:12 AM Report abuse +17 rate up rate down Reply

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