Thursday, October 21, 2010
Juan Williams, NPR and Free Speech
Blah, blah and blah. Juan Williams got the axe for blah, blah and blah. In particular, he said in response to Bill O'Reilly,
“The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet,” O’Reilly said.
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams added. “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.”
And for his blah, Williams' contract with National Public Radio was terminated. NPR said the Panamanian born Williams response was, "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR." Ta-da. So much for free speech. Shame on you NPR.
Mr. Williams has been affiliated with NPR
since 1999. Initially he was the host for Talk of the Nation. Subsequently he became a senior correspondent and he worked on a variety of topics. Well respected, he was a regular of the liberal leaning radio giant. Besides NPR, the Haverford educated Williams has been a Fox News
contributor since 1997. Fox is a bastion of conservative opinion. Mr. Williams has been able to see and to participate in both liberal and conservative ideologies with intellectual honesty.
In 2009, NPR asked Fox to stop referring to Williams as an NPR contributor, when he was on O'Reilly. Juan Williams is a frequent guest on the Bill O'Reilly show and he has acted as a guest host when O'Reilly has been away. Without doubt, NPR harbored angst that Williams played both sides of the street. Alicia Shepard, a NPR ombudsman, asserted that Williams spoke one way on NPR and another on Fox. It is no great surprise that NPR went overboard with Williams "Muslim" air fear.
Inasmuch as the men who crashed the 911 planes were all Muslim, many passengers of all stripes share Williams' verbalized apprehension. So what? Other than expressing an apprehension, the discharged Mr. Williams said nothing which could be reasonably construed as bigoted, hateful, discriminatory or harmful. Rather than "punish" Williams for his opinion, the constitutional rights protecting broadcaster should have defended his right to speak. The First Amendment protects free speech.
NPR has managed to lessen itself in the eyes of the public. The treatment of Mr. Williams is the product of a longstanding disapproval of his professional actions, work and opinions. It would have been more prudent to have non renewed his contract in the course of usual business, to wit, at a time his contract came up for renewal. Or at the least, his jettisoning should have been accomplished at a time when the commentator was not in the eye of a storm.
Mr. Juan Williams is a celebrated and honored newsman. His career will only be catapulted as a result of this impetuous move by NPR. The most disquieting aspect of this forgettable incident is the hypocrisy of National Public Radio. What NPR does, what Fox does, what Juan Williams does and what this blog does is all about FREE SPEECH. NPR has, for the moment, allowed its animosity towards Mr. Williams to override its duty to protect and cherish the First Amendment.
And so it goes.