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NPR fires Juan Williams over anti-Muslim remarks

21 October 2010 General No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 9:59 AM

Veteran journalist Juan Williams was fired from his job as senior news analyst for National Public Radio late Wednesday because of comments he made about Muslims and terrorism on “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that Williams’s remarks – including that he gets “worried”  was no different than radio shock jock Don Imus being fired for his “nappy-headed hos” comment, or the calls for Helen Thomas to lose her job after making anti-Israel remarks last June (Thomas, then 89 years old, abruptly retired).

“If you pay a professional price for those kinds of comments about otand “nervous” when he sees people dressed in Muslim-style clothing on airplanes – “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

Williams, 56, made the remarks Monday after the show’s host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him whether he thought the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” O’Reilly said that “jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Williams, who is African American and writes and speaks frequently on race, told O’Reilly that he agreed with his assessment.

“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,” he said. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

(VIDEO: Watch Williams in the “O’Reilly Factor” appearance that led to his firing.)

Williams then brought up a statement made in a New York courtroom this month by Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American who pleaded guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square and was sentenced to life in prison.

“He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Williams said.

Reached Thursday morning in Washington, Williams–who is also an analyst and commentator for Fox News–said he was still digesting the news of his NPR termination and didn’t want to comment. “I better bite my tongue at this point,” he said.

O’Reilly drew headlines himself recently with comments about Muslims on the television show “The View.” He said he opposed a proposal to build a mosque in downtown Manhattan, near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, because “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”

When co-host Whoopi Goldberg interjected that the perpetrators of those attacks were “extremists” who did not represent all Muslims, O’Reilly repeated his statement, prompting Goldberg and co-host Joy Behar to walk off the set.

(VIDEO: Watch “The View” walkout.)

Muslim advocacy groups and liberal commentators reacted with outrage to Williams’s comments on “The O’Reilly Factor” and called for his ouster. Conservative bloggers, in turn, blasted the dismissal as political-correctness spiraling out of control.

“NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a statement issued before the firing was announced. “Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR.”

Blogger Michelle Malkin, posting about the incident, said NPR had “caved into left-wing attack dogs on the Internet.” And Erick Erickson, author of the “Red State” blog, called NPR’s decision “disgusting.”

” All Juan Williams did is say both exactly how he feels and how many, many other Americans feel on this subject,” Erickson wrote. The man’s body of work makes clear he is no bigot. But we sure can’t offend muslims can we?”

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, however, said Williams’s ousterher groups, it’s only reasonable that you should do so when speaking about Muslims or Islam,” Hooper said. He added, “How would [Williams] react if someone said the same thing about African Americans or another minority?”

Williams is a former staff writer for The Washington Post who still writes occasionally for the newspaper’s opinion sections. In 1991, he was disciplined by the newspaper for making inappropriate comments to female staffers about their dating and sex lives. Those allegations, and the Post’s internal investigation, were made public after Williams wrote in an opinion column that Anita Hill had “no credible evidence” for her allegations of sexual harassment by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

NPR, based in Washington, is public radio’s foremost program producer and distributer. Its programs – including the daily news shows “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” – are heard on more than 800 independent public radio stations across the country, as well as on Sirius XM satellite radio.

NPR is funded primarily by annual dues paid by its member stations, and by corporate sponsors and foundation grants. About 2 percent of its budget comes directly from federal tax money via funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the private organization set up by Congress to distribute federal funds to public radio and TV broadcasters.

“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,” NPR said in its statement, adding, “We regret these circumstances and thank Juan Williams for his many years of service to NPR and public radio.”

More from Washington Post:

James Zogby, a Catholic of Lebanese descent, works to dispel myths about Arabs.

A review of career-changing gaffes.

Bill O’Reilly’s fight with the ladies of “The View.”

wilgorend@washpost.com, farhip@washpost.com

Original post: NPR fires Juan Williams over anti-Muslim remarks

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