Why NPR Was Right To Fire Juan Williams
What's more, the fact of the matter is that even going by Williams' own logic, his bigotry or fear is misplaced. After all, the alleged masterminds of the World Trade Center attacks, so-called sneaker failed bomber, and the so-called under-wear failed bomber: these individuals were not dressed in "Muslim garb." It would seem more logical to be fearful and worried about people not dressed in "Muslim garb."
[Black Star News Editorial]
National Public Radio (NPR) was correct when it fired news analyst Juan WIlliams for his remarks about how he feels about people in "Muslim garb" during his appearance on the O'Reilly show on Fox with Bill O'Reilly.
The fact of the matter is that WIlliams knew he would probably be fired for what he said and he also knew that what he said was wrong since he had to preface his remarks, as when he first said political correctness "can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality" and that he was "not a bigot" since he had "written about the civil rights movement in this country."
So going by his own preface, Williams was paving the way to address some "reality" that some people could misread and mistakenly think he was a "bigot," which he was not, since he had written very respected books on the historical civil rights movement.
Then what did Williams go on to tell Bill O'Reilly?: "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. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. 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."
And what are the facts then that he was referring to?
That everytime we board a plane and see someone dressed in customary Muslim attire --or to borrow from Williams, "garb"-- we should assume that they ascribe to what the Times Square failed bomber believes? Just because "they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims"?
This is clearly a bigoted remark coming from a senior and experienced journalist like Juan Williams.
Someone could make the argument that Williams was simply stating the facts. That there are indeed many Americans, including many so-called liberals, who have similar fears as those expressed by Williams to O'Reilly. Such an argument misses the point--which is that, for better or worse, journalists to some extent are opinion makers. Journalists are considered, rightly or otherwise, as being much better informed than most members of the public. If someone who is relatively better informed than the average Joe, can openly say on a major news network that when he sees someone in "Muslim garb" --not attire-- "I get worried" then it's also reasonable to conclude that many other Americans can feel that such fears are legitimate and justifiable.
That because someone is a Muslim, therefore that person is possibly a terrorist: this is simply wrong.
And Williams could not have been unaware of the timing of his statement. It comes at a time shortly after global news headlines were dominated by the acrimonious and ugly debacle over the building of a cultural center, that would include a Muslim prayer room, near the site of the World Trade Center attacks.
The debate had inflamed anti-Muslim sentiments --and there have reported increase in bigoted and racist attacks against Muslims throughout the country-- all across the United States. Williams, a respected public figure --like it or not that's what journalists who appear on major networks are-- then makes a statement clearly justifying bigoted views. How could he have been surprised that NPR fired him? Williams knows in his heart that he should not have said what he did--unless he made the remarks deliberately, knowing that it would also play well during this election cycle, by providing fodder to the Republicans heading into the midterm elections, by making it appear that liberals don't tolerate disssenting views.
Williams was certainly quickly rewarded by Fox News, which provided him with an extended $2 million three-year contract extension.
What's more, Williams' most vocal supporters are now cynical Republicans such as Eric Cantor, Sen. Jim DeMint, and former governors Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin: all these partisans are demanding that NPR be defunded, claiming Williams' First Amendment rights were violated.
These are the same Republicans who completely forgot that there was such a thing as First Amendment rights when it came to building the Cultural Center near the site of the former Wall Trade Center attacks in New York. The self-serving hypocrisy is nauseating.
Thankfully, less than 10% of NPR's operating costs reportedly come from federal money.
On the other hand, NPR did panic and went about the dismissal wrongfully. Williams should have been invited to meet with NPR's executive director and required to explain his remarks. It's unlikely he would have been able to provide a response that satisfactorily countered such a clear cut wrongful answer.
Williams had prefaced his remarks, bringing up his documentation of the civil rights as credentials that would expel any notion that he was bigoted. Yet that's comparable to a White man in the 1960s saying he was a liberal supporter of the civil rights movement but that he was secretly worried that his daughters would be molested by Black men once schools and colleges were integrated.
Williams' can't be excused for publicly stating what many Americans may agree is a fearful association between "Muslim garb" and acts of terrorism that does exist in this country. Williams has no justification for stoking such fears.
Professionally Williams knows he was also wrong. After the fears he publicly expressed, how could Williams on a future date then be expected to be open-minded when interviewing someone dressed in "Muslim garb"? How would he be able to render any meaningful analysis about the Arab world or the Middle East where many people wear "Muslim garb"?
Even going by Williams' own logic, his bigotry or fear is misplaced. After all, the alleged masterminds of the World Trade Center attacks, so-called sneaker failed bomber, and the so-called under-wear failed bomber: these individuals were not dressed in "Muslim garb."
It would seem more logical to be fearful and worried about people not dressed in "Muslim garb." So whom should we be fearful of then? Middle-Eastern looking people? Darker-skinned people? People with significantly more public hair?
Williams has a right to his personal prejudices --at the end of the day no one else can control what's in our hearts and minds-- but he was wrong and he crossed the line when he expressed them on O'Reilly's show for mass consumption.
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