Juan Williams Fired from NPR

Related story on HuffPo here

Started in the Pit because I assume this could end up in the Pit.

I think NPR had every right to do what they did - terminate an employee for their reasons - regardless of whether or not I agree with their rationale.

I also agree with their position that, regardless of Juan Williams basic reputation as a liberal and not racist, that his words were out of line with NPR’s basic position/stated value set.

If I am actively pitting anyone in this thread, it is Juan Williams’ for how he is reacting like a whiny, pissy victim who doesn’t acknowledge the tone of his words, and of course Fox for using the whole thing like a plot in pro wrestling.

And now you see the problem with liberal racebaiting. What the fuck do you do when a Mexican Rican makes a nigger joke, or a Puerto Rican makes a Muslim comment?

I have an idea. Why don’t we assign a system of baiting points to a person, based on ethnicity, religion, and other weaknesses? Insults can flow up, but not down…all you have to do is add up the points, and you can insult anyone who has fewer points than you do. Here are a few example entries to the scale:

female 1 point
black 2 points
Muslim 2 points
Mexican 3 points
gay 2 points
AIDS-infested 10 points added to the previous 2
amputee 3 points per missing limb

Would this be good enough for NPR?

NPR has a very simple policy. Don’t say anything in a public forum that you would not say on NPR.

::remembers why he started this thread in the Pit::

Do you listen to NPR? Do you have a POV on their values and journalistic position? ** Maus Magill **sums up their basic value set - and Juan Williams would not say on NPR what he said on Fox…

I’m sure NPR would have fired a Muslim reporter for going on Rachel Maddow’s show and saying, “I like to go to airports dressed in hijab to make conservatives wet their pants.” One firing is such a small sample size.

Personally I see this not so much as a racebaiting thing as an idiocy thing. But please, post more hilarious analysis, my local paper doesn’t carry Mallard Fillmore.

(sniffs air)
Something derpy this way comes. Folks can feast on the ACORN corpse for only so long, and then the mob needs fresh meat.

Question: Is William’s statement stupid, ignorant, or deliberately inflammatory? I’m going with door #3.

Oh, and on the flip side, if the scenario had played out where the article instead read “Williams apologized for that comment on Thursday afternoon, saying in a statement that ‘I spoke hastily and I apologize to NPR and others for my thoughtless remark.’” Would Schiller still have fired him?
If the answer is yes (and I believe it is), why does Schiller get a free pass at what many would consider an insensitive comment?

By “insensitive comment” do you mean that she said something about “Williams’ should keep those thoughts between himself and his therapist” or something like that? I thought she apologized for that already - which, as you share above for Williams, can be enough to move on. And I agree with you - if Williams had been genuinely contrite, this would be a non-issue…

Yes, she did apologize. Now, we really only have Williams’ side of the story on how this situation played out, but from the article it made it appear as if the decision to fire Williams was in place before the phone call with Schiller. So it really didn’t matter what Williams said or how contrite he was, he was getting fired anyway.
Now, I doubt we’ll ever know what really happened, but just going by the facts presented, I found it interesting that Schiller could make a rude comment and then apologize later, but Williams would have gotten fired regardless.

I don’t think Williams comments were all that bad (misinformed, yes; bad, no), and NPR (which I listen to daily) way overreacted. But don’t cry for Williams. Fox has already offered him a $2,000,000 multi-year deal (according to my local morning Fox show). He’d be lucky to earn that much on NPR is he worked there for 50 years.

And yes, Fox certainly was milking the story for all it is worth and then some this morning.

So in other words he’s getting set to become the black Alan colmes.

Reading between the lines on his obituary* on NPR he seems to have had several demotions that have to be considered warnings. Further, NPR staff is not allowed to be overtly political, as evidenced by NPR news staff being told they were not allowed to attend John Stewart’s rally.

Also, freedom of speech says we can say whatever political speech we want, the government is not allowed to prosecute for that speech. It doesn’t protect you from getting fired when you make stupid bigoted** comments that will reflect on your employer.

  • Ok it isn’t really an obituary it is just their commentary on the firing
    **Any sentence that starts “I am not a bigot but” is going to be almost by definition bigoted.

If he said I get scared when black people get on a plane ,it would have been bigotry. if he says I fear when a muslim gets on, it suddenly is not.
It is judging people collectively and on appearance. He can feel that way in private , but as a commentator he can not say it in public. It will offend a large group of their listeners.

Even if that is their policy, i think that firing someone for saying what Williams NPR is something of an over-reaction.

I think his feelings about seeing Muslims on planes are stupid, and demonstrate a hysterical lack of perspective about the extent to which Muslims are a threat. If he truly feels scared by simply seeing Muslims at an airport or on his plane, then he’s the sort of moron who probably also seals up his windows with plastic wrap and duct tape, and who thinks the TSA ban on nail clippers was a good idea.

But, if he genuinely does have those feelings of trepidation, i really don’t see what the big deal is about his talking about them. Also, just about every single news story i can find on this quotes Williams’ words about his fear of Muslims on planes, but leaves out his other comments about not blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few extremists, and about needing to treat all people equally under the law.

My argument here isn’t about the First Amendment or some other legal principle. It’s simply about journalistic standards and professionalism. Yes, we expect journalists to exhibit professional ethics, and we expect that they don’t let their personal beliefs get in the way of accurate reporting. But Williams was a commentator too, and it’s pretty clear that his comments were opinion only, and that he did not mean them to be taken as some sort of factual assertion about the dangers posed by Muslims.

I understand, in a general sense, the reasons behind NPR’s policies, but i think that this particular case shows that such policies, even when well-intentioned, can have detrimental consequences. I have no opinion on Williams’ ability as a commentator, as i don’t recall ever having heard him on NPR, and if he’s as crappy as some of the stories i’ve read suggest then maybe NPR is better off without him. I’ve been critical in the past of the way that NPR apparently feels that it has to bend over backwards to provide conservative “balance” on its shows, and if that’s the main role Williams was playing, he probably won’t be missed very much. But i think this was a bad reason to fire someone.

And, while i admit that i’m a little conflicted on the issue, i think that this is different, in some important ways, from CNN’s firing of Rick Sanchez recently. I support CNN’s firing of Sanchez, and i think his comment about Jon Stewart and about Jews in the media industry were different, in important ways, from Williams’ comments about his own feelings about seeing Muslims in airports.

That lays out the bright line. It feels like a double-standard.

Actually, i think this example provides a good opportunity for looking at this issue. But we have to change the scenario a bit. The reason that Williams mentioned Muslims is precisely because of their association (stereotyped or not) with the 9/11 attacks and with terrorism in general. So the plane is relevant. But black people have not been stereotyped as dangerous on planes (unless they’re fighting snakes on a plane).

So, instead of a plane, let’s take the black person and put him a situation where black people are often stereotyped: on an empty city street late at night.

I can imagine someone saying something like this. Hell, i have heard people say exactly this sort of thing when i lived in Baltimore:

“When i’m walking home at night, and i see a young black man walking towards me down the street, i get nervous. I realize that not all black people are criminals, and that race is not a good indicator of someone’s propensity to commit a crime. I also understand that my fear is based, at least in part, on media sensationalism. But it’s a visceral reaction that my rational side can’t really control.”

In Baltimore, in the area where i lived, there were frequent muggings at gunpoint. I knew people who had a gun stuck in their face, along with a demand for their wallet or purse. Just about every single one of those was committed by a young black man. Given the nature of the city as a majority-black city, and the fact that some of the neighborhoods were poor African American neighborhoods, this fact doesn’t really say much about black people as a whole.

None of this means that all black people are dangerous. It doesn’t even mean that anything but a tiny minority of black people are dangerous. But someone expressing their anxiety in this way is not, in my opinion, necessarily bigotry. The fact that generalizing from stereotypes is wrong, and that we recognize it is wrong, does not always mean that we are unaffected by stereotypes, even when we reject them.

Just MHO.

I think people who are the voices of (credible) news organizations should know better than to air their controversial personal opinions, no matter how sincerely they are held. Even if Williams was able to separate those opinions from his reporting (and I have no doubt that he was), NPR’s image is compromised by keeping him on staff. Imagine if Walter Cronkite had talked in interviews about not wanting black boys near his white daughters during integration – it would have colored viewers’ perception of CBS, even if the reporting was identical.

When it comes to news reporting, perception is critical. Williams should have known better.

I appreciate this thoughtful commentary. It just feels like the framing that **Giraffe **presents just above gets at the bigger point.

He had been warned in the past most notably when he referred to Michelle Obama as Stokely Carmichael ln a designer dress. For earlier comments he was demoted from news corespondent to news analyst.

I am not sure about everyone else, but if I get several warnings and a demotion from an employer for specific behavior and continue that behavior I am probably telling them I don’t want the job.