The war of words around Islamaphobia has claimed another victim. NPR fired
senior news analyst Juan Williams late Wednesday after remarks he made on Bill
O'Reilly's Fox News program. Williams, who is also a Fox News contributor, was
discussing O'Reilly's recent appearance on ABC's The View during which a
heated discussion about the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan prompted
co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk off the set.
Monday night (Oct. 18) on The O'Reilly Factor,
O'Reilly asked Williams if he thought the U.S. was facing a "Muslim dilemma,"
adding "The cold truth is that in the world today, jihad, aided and abetted by
some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet."
Williams, who was born in Panama and writes and
lectures about race, essentially agreed with O'Reilly.
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot," said
Williams. "You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights
movement in this country. 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."
NPR said in a statement that Williams' comments are
"inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his
credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
Williams joined NPR in 1996 and has been a familiar
face to television news audiences since 1990 when CNN hired him to be among the
co-hosts on political roundtable Crossfire. Fox News signed him in 1997
as a political contributor where he is a regular panelist on Fox News Sunday
while also appearing on a number of other programs at the network.
Williams' affiliation with Fox News has been a
simmering controversy inside NPR. In February 2009, NPR asked Fox News to
stop identifying Williams as an NPR host while on Fox News. The request stemmed
from Williams' characterization of Michelle Obama as "Stokely Carmichael in a
designer dress" during an appearance on Fox News.
Muslim groups immediately objected to Williams'
comments and the incident has caused a fevered debate in the political media
Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the
Council on American Islamic Relations, issued a statement soon after Williams'
remarks and before he was fired.
"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," the statement
said. "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."
Conservative media stars lined up behind Williams.
Blogger Michelle Malkin accused NPR of caving to
"left-wing attack dogs on the Internet."
Red State's Erick Erickson called Williams' ouster
"disgusting," adding "all Williams did is say both exactly how he feels and how
many, many other Americans feel on the subject. The man's body of work makes
clear he is no bigot. But we sure can't offend Muslims can we?"
In a statement, NPR said: "Tonight we gave Juan Williams notice that we
are terminating his contract as a Senior News Analyst for NPR News. 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. 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. We regret these circumstances and thank Juan Williams for his many years
of service to NPR and public radio."
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