Lot’s of folks are taking on NPR’s ridiculous firing of Juan Williams. Here are a few takes on the matter.
Let’s start with the man himself, Juan Williams:
[When Ellen Weiss called to fire him,] I asked why she would fire me without speaking to me face to face and she said there was nothing I could say to change her mind, the decision had been confirmed above her, and there was no point to meeting in person. To say the least this is a chilling assault on free speech. The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.
So much for having an open mind or engaging in an exchange of thoughts. But this column is just starting to get interesting. Mr. Williams is about to fight back:
I say an ideological battle because my comments on “The O’Reilly Factor” are being distorted by the self-righteous ideological, left-wing leadership at NPR. They are taking bits and pieces of what I said to go after me for daring to have a conversation with leading conservative thinkers. They loathe the fact that I appear on Fox News.
* * *
Years ago NPR tried to stop me from going on “The Factor.” When I refused they insisted that I not identify myself as an NPR journalist. I asked them if they thought people did not know where I appeared on the air as a daily talk show host, national correspondent and news analyst. They refused to budge.
* * *
Later on the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock crisis President Bush offered to do an NPR interview with me about race relations in America. NPR management refused to take the interview on the grounds that the White House offered it to me and not their other correspondents and hosts. One NPR executive implied I was in the administration’s pocket, which is a joke, and there was no other reason to offer me the interview. Gee, I guess NPR news executives never read my bestselling history of the civil rights movement “Eyes on the Prize – America’s Civil Rights Years,” or my highly acclaimed biography “Thurgood marshall — American Revolutionary.” I guess they never noticed that “ENOUGH,” my last book on the state of black leadership in America, found a place on the New York Times bestseller list.
This all led to NPR demanding that I either agree to let them control my appearances on Fox News and my writings or sign a new contract that removed me from their staff but allowed me to continue working as a news analyst with an office at NPR. The idea was that they would be insulated against anything I said or wrote outside of NPR because they could say that I was not a staff member. . . . This week when I pointed out that they had forced me to sign a contract that gave them distance from my commentary outside of NPR I was cut off, ignored and fired.
Williams closes with a few comments about Nixon and enemies’ lists. Suffice it to say here that his comparison of NPR to Nixon is less than flattering. Do read the whole thing. I wish Williams had revealed some of this far sooner, but can’t blame him for not doing so and getting himself fired far sooner.
Next up, Steve Hayes, who notes that NPR claims Williams was fired for “taking controversial positions.” He then compares Williams’ comments to those of Nina Totenberg. Again, the comparison is not flattering, either to NPR or Totenberg:
If that’s true, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg might want to start looking for a new job. Over the past month, in her regular appearances on “Inside Washington,” she has: criticized a ruling of the Roberts Court as scandalous; claimed that Michelle Obama gives people “warm and fuzzy” feelings; called Bill Clinton “the most gifted politician I’ve ever seen;” and lamented that the Democratic Party is diverse enough to include moderates that want to extend all Bush tax cuts.
On last weekend’s “Inside Washington,” which aired October 17, she told us that Michelle Obama is “an incredibly graceful surrogate” for her husband who gives people “warm and fuzzy” feelings.
On October 10, Totenberg compared the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the prominent campaign finance case, to Watergate.
* * *
The week before, on October 3, she decried Republicans – a “concerted minority” – for holding up business in the Senate and declared that their willingness to exploit antiquated congressional rules was a “loony way to do business.”
* * *
[W]hen Charles Krauthammer pointed out that 31 Democrats in the House had written to Nancy Pelosi to call for extending the Bush tax cuts, Totenberg wished them out of the party. “When a party actually has a huge majority, it has a huge diversity. And that is part of the problem that Democrats have. But would I like it to be otherwise? Of course.”
And then he reminds us of a few other things, including the infamous comment about Jesse Helms’ grandchildren getting AIDS. Again, do read the whole thing. The headline of Hayes’ column is “Is Nina Totenberg Next?” The answer, of course, is no. NPR does not care about commentators expressing opinions (it does not even care much about its news staff expressing opinions), but they have to be the right, er, left, opinions.
Now hand the mike to Jeff Jacoby, who disinters another nugget from NPR’s memory hole via the guys at PowerLine:
TO JOURNALISTS OF INTEGRITY, blacklist is the vilest word in the dictionary. Nothing corrupts a free press like conspiring to silence a man. And when the conspiracy results from arm-twisting by extremists, it is not only corrupting, but cowardly.
This is a story of blacklisting at National Public Radio.
Sounds promising. Let’s read on:
On Aug. 20, NPR’s popular Talk of the Nation dealt with breaking news: the US raids on Osama bin Laden’s terror facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan. One of several guests interviewed by telephone was Steven Emerson, an investigative journalist and a leading expert on Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Emerson has reported in detail on Islamic extremism, and has focused public attention on the network of terror cells and front groups operating in the United States.
* * *
In short, Emerson was an ideal guest for NPR’s show, and his brief on-air conversation with host Melinda Penkava was unobjectionable.
Unobjectionable, that is, to anyone except the Islamic terrorists and their supporters whom Emerson has done so much to expose. In recent years, he has been the target of a brutal campaign of vilification and defamation. The Council on American Islamic Relations — a radical group that warmly defends Hamas and other terror outfits — has led the way in demonizing Emerson as an anti-Arab racist.
As Mr. Jacoby recounts — using actual email exchanges to back it up — NPR caved to pressure from CAIR and established a policy not to interview Mr. Emerson on its shows again. That’s right, a policy barring “an expert who testifies before Congress . . . from the airwaves of the radio network Congress subsidizes.” You know the drill, read the whole thing (so good I’ll link it twice).
Michael Barone also weighs in, noting, among other things, the relative tolerance displayed by two different audiences:
Reading between the lines of Juan’s statement and those of NPR officials, it’s apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: . . . many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.
Yes, it’s funny how the forces of tolerance are always the ones arguing “shut up!”
Remind me again, why are taxpayers funding this “self-righteous ideological, left-wing” media outlet called NPR? I personally enjoy listening to NPR, but we should no more be forced to fund NPR than taxpayers should be forced to fund Rush Limbaugh’s show.
There are two big winners here: Rupert Murdoch and Juan Williams, probably in that order. And the biggest loser, of course, is NPR, whose integrity is being examined and taxpayer funding is being questioned seriously for perhaps the first time.