Juan Williams, a longtime journalist and commentator for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Fox News, recently had his contract terminated with National Public Radio for comments made on The O’Reilly Factor, which NPR claimed were, “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.”
And what exactly were these controversial remarks that lead to the firing of this moderate liberal, who despite being a supporter of President Obama is highly respected by those from nearly all political persuasions? Well, he took a step outside NPR’s politically correct box by describing his fears around Muslims on airplanes. “When I get on the plane… if I see people who are in Muslim garb… I get worried. I get nervous.” That’s it. He would go on to describe his disdain for an American who committed violence against a Muslim cab driver, and emphasized that there are “good Muslims” and that we’re not in a war against Islam. But for merely describing a personal and irrational fear, he got the axe. I describe the fear as irrational not because I reject the idea of Islamic terrorists being a threat, but because I find it unlikely that terrorists would wear clothes likely to attract attention (The one exception being the London suicide attacks in which one of the terrorists was sporting a full-on burqa).
For a long time now, NPR has been accused of having a left-wing bias. Over the past year they came under fire for putting out a video “Learn to Speak Tea Bag” in which they mocked the populist tea-party movement. And more despicably, in the nineties an NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg said that if there was “retributive justice” then former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms would “get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren.” During the same period, Andrei Codrescu while reporting that some Christian groups believed in a rapture that would have 4 million believers ascending into heaven, he stated, “The evaporation of 4 million who believe this crap would leave the world an instantly better place.” Both Totenberg and Codrescu kept their jobs without much issue. Apparently fantasizing about people getting AIDS or wishing for the deaths of 4 million Christians is perfectly consistent with the high “editorial standards” that NPR holds their employees to. Perhaps if Williams had only picked the correct group to express his fears towards, he would have kept his job as well.
But were these seemingly harmless comments (to those of us living in reality) really what caused the firing? Williams himself doesn’t seem think so. On his blog he hints that it may be merely his willingness to appear on the Fox News Channel. “They loathe the fact that I appear on Fox News… Years ago NPR tried to stop me from going on ‘The Factor.’ When I refused they insisted that I not identify myself as an NPR journalist.” He went on to completely skewer the NPR management by accusing them of having “no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing.”
Now, neither the blatant bias of NPR nor the irresponsible firing of Juan Williams would be of much significance, if it weren’t for one simple fact; as most people are already aware NPR receives public funding hence National Public Radio. The next step must be to make that no longer the case. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has already confirmed that he will introduce legislation to do just that, and although it’s unlikely to pass, it’s a step in the right direction. No matter how soft and non-confrontational the general tone on NPR may be, their close-mindedness and intolerance of contrary views should prevent them from ever receiving a dime from the public treasury again.