The Firing of Juan Williams from NPR

I stopped listening to NPR several years ago. This was mostly because after the World Trade Center came down I couldn’t receive the signal in my home for a long time — the main signal came from the top of one of the towers — and I got out of the habit of listening to the radio when I’m home or driving anywhere.

So, while I’ve heard much bellyaching from NPR listeners about Juan Williams and Mara Liasson, I can’t say I have an opinion about what they do on NPR, because I haven’t heard it myself. However, I have come across Williams in other venues, mostly newspaper op eds, so I am familiar with his perspective. Liasson I have so far managed to avoid.

My impression is that Williams and Liasson were hired at NPR as part of an “affirmative action” for righties program. Nobody expected them to be any good, but at least NPR could point to them and say NPR doesn’t just hire liberals.

I’ve read the comments Williams made that allegedly got him fired. They’re stupid, but then so is the other commentary I’ve ever bumped into by Williams. So I’m actually a bit surprised NPR decided to react to this bit of drivel, when they’ve ignored so much other drivel over the years. I wonder if there isn’t more to the story than we’re being told. Like maybe NPR had already made up its mind to fire him and was just waiting for an excuse to break his contract.

As Matt Yglesias says, “If Williams had never made these remarks about Muslims and NPR announced his firing this morning on the grounds of general lameness and lack of valuable contribution to their programming, I would have applauded the move so I’m hardly going to deplore what actually happened.”

I notice that many of the same right-wing bloggers who cheered when Helen Thomas was fired for saying something stupid about Jews, and who crucified David Weigel for opinions he expressed on a bleeping private listserv, are now screaming that Juan Williams is being deprived of his right to free speech. Standard hypocrisy noted.

But the fact is that journalists or commentators who are associated with a media outlet do have to be careful about expressing personal opinions in public, as Thomas and Weigel learned (and Weigel’s remarks weren’t supposed to be public) because those opinions call their objectivity into question and make their employers look bad. And, right or wrong, that’s how it is.

That said, Williams’s remarks by themselves don’t seem to add up to that much, so by themselves I don’t think they add up to a firing offense. Which, again, makes me suspect the remarks weren’t the real reason he was fired. But NPR doesn’t consult with me on these matters, so I’m only guessing.

Update: DougJ at Balloon Juice agrees with me.

Juan Williams’ firing did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in the context of him having been the official Fox News lawn jockey stooge for years. Here’s the NPR ombudsman 18 months ago expressing concerns about Williams’ appearances on Fox, for example. Williams’ appearances on Fox clearly violated NPR’s guidelines for its employees.

23 thoughts on “The Firing of Juan Williams from NPR

  1. “So I’m actually a bit surprised NPR decided to react to this bit of drivel”

    I agree, he was expressing a personal opinion (giving us insight into just how stupid he really is), don’t seem like enough to get fired over. I tend to think your right NPR wanted him gone anyway, most likely because he is an embarrassment to the NPR brand, what with his almost nightly uncle-tom persona on FAUX.

  2. The remarks that led to his dismissal were pretty lame. But then, he’s had a long history of being the “Liberal” not only on (since 2001, the more right-leaning) NPR, but FOX, CNN, and other networks, who’s the “Go-to Guy” when you need someone who’s really reliable for attacking the Democrats from ‘the left.’
    He’s certainly not the only one. There’s a whole bunch of ‘Liberal pundit’s’ who get paid a wage that would qualify them to continue to root for the Bush tax cuts, no matter what the subject matter at hand is, who bite any appendage that’s not coming from the right. And no one seems to notice that they’re like the players who’ve sacked their own Quarterback, or allowed sack’s to happen, on as many plays as they can get away with, and then blame him when the team’s behind by 35 points in the 4th Quarter with less than 2 minutes left to play. ‘If you’re such a genious, get us out of this mess!’
    Now, after Williams, who, I’m sure will find a comfortable home at FOX, as did Dick Morris, to continue their assault on the left for cash, prizes, and who knows what else, not excluding the toe’s of hooker’s, who do you want to see go next? Me? I vote for Coakie, who makes me feel like I’m some prisoner of “The Village” who’s forced to listen to centrist pundit gibberish as punishment for thinking outside the DC box. Then Mara. How about replacing them with Eric Alterman and Katrina Vanden Heuvel? Nah, that won’t happen. I’m sure Bristol Palin will need a comfortable place to land after her mother’s money finally runs out and she lands on her rather ample Palin ass to finally get kicked off of “Dancing with the, uh, Really, Stars???”
    Maybe the right can create enough of a ruckus with this firing to get either Rush, Glenn, or Sean a spot on NPR, since, in their little minds, this was an egregious over-reach by the left, “lame-stream’ media.
    All of this right-wing anger at Williams’ firing will, of course, pale in comparison to the looting, burning, killing of police officers, and assassination of anti-abortion protesters from ‘The Left,’ that accompanied ‘HANNITY’ letting ‘colmes’ go, thus cutting off the one small postule on his left cheek that prevented him from pulling even more BS out of his ass.
    AmeriKKKa, what a country!

  3. Up until I retired in Feb of ’03 I listened to NPR on my 35 min drive to and from work. The first time I heard Williams, I wondered why he was working there. To my mind, he did not sound the way I expected a person on NPR to sound.

    BTW, I’ve not listened to NPR since I retired.

  4. In my recollection, neither Williams nor Liasson were overtly cornservative 20 years ago (and both actually reported news instead of just yammering). But they really stepped up the obnoxious contrarianism once they got the Fox gigs.

  5. I won’t miss Williams. Before the magnificent Dan Schorr passed away this summer, Williams was the guy who’d sit in for him some Saturday mornings. Blurgh. It was like replacing an Aston Martin with a Gremlin.

  6. Williams was wearing his conservative amulet on his lapel when he got the boot. The Gods must be angry…What’s this world coming to when you can’t even stereotype all Muslims as potential terrorists when engaged in a friendly light hearted bigotry session with the mighty Bill-O?

    One commenter at another site equated Williams concern of flying while Muslim with the well understood concept of driving while black. And when you think about it…whether a legitimate concern, or an unfounded keep it to yourself. Adios, Juan. Hasta luego!

  7. He was not fired for gross incompetence when he displayed his inability to tell the difference between Michelle Obama and Stokeley Carmichael a couple of years ago. That comment forever revealed him as being not bright enough to analyze grown-up subject matter. The evening news on NBC and CBS failed to mention this episode in their broadcasts. This lets Williams look like a martyr to political correctness.

  8. I am not surprised Fox picked him up. BTW, following one blogger’s thought back in April, I think Rupert Murdoch is the Alfred Hugenberg of the American Republic.

  9. Oh my the gloves are off now. I read some posts on NPR’s blogs when I was on the bus home, and it sounds like both NPR execs and Juan are not being shy about letting their true feelings out. Hee-hee-hee.

    It’s debatable whether this comment in itself was a firing offense, though I’d say yes. But certainly, in the context of a long string of offenses, it’s certainly possible to see it as the straw that broke the camel’s back. In my not humble opinion, he was on borrowed time since he called the First Lady “Stokley Carmichael in a dress”.

    As for his comment, it may have been honest, but it was certainly bigoted. I wonder, does he worry about being molested every time he sits next to a priest? Probably not, though there is a higher percentage of priests who are molesters than the percentage of Muslims that blow up planes.

    Oh, and BTW, Juan just signed a new 3 year contract with Fox News for nearly $2 million, so I doubt losing the NPR gig is hurting too badly.

  10. Gulag, I’ve found it a lot easier to bear the weekly visit from Cokie if I think of it not as news analysis, but as a distilled summary of What The Villager Thinks. It’s often useful to see just how the Villager bias interprets the news, and Cokie is like having a copy of the DC Social Register that talks!

    Just remember, despite what she thinks and her title at NPR, she’s not actually analyzing the news, she’s just relaying what Villagers think the news means, which can be interesting to know if, as I know you do, you live here in Reality, and not the Village.

  11. biggerbox,
    Thanks. I appreciate your outlook. But, when I want to have something that’s been distilled, I prefer it to be on the rocks. So, maybe if Coakie jumped off a cliff, I’d appreciate her more.*

    *Just kidding.

    And congratulations Juan on your new job at FOX. You are now another not-proud recipient of Wingnut Welfare, the greatest Conservative scam of all time. Where, if you play along, you get along, and get a 6-figure salary for doing so.
    In my eyes, FOX News is far more dangerous to this country than The Taliban or Al Qaeda.

  12. I wondered the same thing as biggerbox. Let’s all visualize O’Reilly’s red face exploding if someone were to say this to him:

    When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see a Catholic priest sitting near children and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Catholics, I get worried. I get nervous.

    You’d think the human brain would recognize by now that, if the first words out of your mouth are going to be “You know I’m not a bigot, but…” you really need to stop right there.

  13. And what constitutes Muslim garb aside from a women wearing a headscarf or a burka.. Weren’t all the terrorist who carried out the 9/11 tragedy wearing Izod polo shirts and Dockers? Maybe a “Members Only” jacket for the morning chill?

    • Weren’t all the terrorist who carried out the 9/11 tragedy wearing Izod polo shirts and Dockers?

      Exactly. I assume a guy publicly wearing a Kufi other Muslim men’s headware is probably not planning a surprise terrorist attack.

  14. Yes, and the thing that I’m assuming as I’m waiting to board an airliner is that people wearing “Muslim garb” are going to be the last ones to be checked by security, if they’re checked at all.
    Juan, just how f*cking dumb can you be?

    PS: The sitting next to a Priest line – PRICELESS!!!

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  16. Lawn Jockey is a pretty bigoted remark, and you just endorsed it Maha.

    That makes you a racist cunt.

    • That makes you a racist c***.

      And that makes you a sexist something-or-other. Thanks for dropping by. You can leave now.

  17. Well, “Cheers” certainly picked an inapropro name for him/her/it self.
    May I suggest “Nasty,” or “Asshole?”
    There – fixed!

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