By Gregory Dale
Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers (DC)
After an appearance on Fox News’ the O’Reilly Factor on October 20, 2010, National Public Radio’s Senior News Analyst Juan Williams was fired from the company after claiming that Muslims make him “nervous” and “worried” on planes.
Williams’ comments came after the show’s host Bill O’Reilly asked if the U.S. was facing a “Muslim dilemma.”
“Look Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams responded. “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.”
NPR announced that same evening it was ending Williams’ contract with the company. “Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret,” the statement posted on the NPR website read. “However, his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
Williams, 56, who also serves as a political commentator for FOX News, outraged Muslim advocacy groups and liberal commentators who demanded his ouster. According to CBS News.com, conservative bloggers deemed the incident political correctness spiraling out of control.
Richard Prince, Maynard Institute’s “Journal-isms” columnist believes Williams’ affiliation with both companies was among the primary reasons for conflict. “I think that the whole situation is unfortunate and I think the problem is that Juan Williams was working for NPR and FOX and they have two different cultures and in the end, they were hard to reconcile,” Prince told the AFRO in a recent interview. “NPR does not endorse the kind of behavior that is acceptable or even encouraged on FOX and that was part of the problem.”
Prince added that the incident can’t be viewed in isolation, as Williams has been in conflict with the two companies in the past. “There have been other cases where the factor that he was working for both [companies] caused problems,” Prince said. Especially the time when he compared Michelle Obama to Stokely Carmichael and the time where he interviewed President Bush after NPR told him not to. This latest event is not simply about what he said; it’s about whether NPR wants a contract worker who causes them this kind of discussion.”
George Curry, award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief of Emerge Magazine and the NNPA News Service, echoed Prince’s remarks in saying there was a direct conflict between Williams’ role as a news analyst and political commentator.
“I disagree [with his firing] for what he said,” Curry told the AFRO in a recent interview. “A lot of times, his remarks really went over the edge and he should have never been in that capacity. I don’t think he should have been fired for voicing his opinion because he was in this dual [role] that was bound for conflict since the beginning.”
On Oct. 21, Williams posted a piece on FOXNews.com, responding to his termination with the headline, “I Was Fired for Telling the Truth.” He wrote: “This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only Black on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing.”
Meanwhile, The Tribune Washington Bureau reported that Fox News recently issued Williams a new three-year contract worth $2 million, a considerable increase from his previous salary.