Oh, the leadership is taking lots of heat, but I am adding a voice of praise, a loud and hearty “HALLELUJAH!!”
What’s got me so happy? NPR finally fired Juan Williams. It’s about bloody damn time. And all the Fox “News” shills — Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee … — are screaming for congress to investigate and defund NPR because of it. (Updates at end of post.)
Ok, NPR’s CEO should probably have bitten her tongue on her comment that Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and “his psychiatrist or his publicist” (even though that made me chuckle), but I totally support her decision to say goodbye to the man. NPR’s ombudsman says Willams should have been given a choice before being let go: “If he wanted to stay at NPR, he would have to stop doing commentary on Fox News Channel. Or, if he preferred to continue with Fox, he and NPR could part ways.” And that sounds good, but the fact is, he’d already been given a choice … after his offensive “Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress” reference to the First Lady, he was gently slapped on the hand and asked to not identify himself as an NPR correspondent when he’s making crazy-ass comments such as that one. Maybe the message Williams took from that experience was that he could say whatever he wanted and NPR would be too PC to do anything more than ask him to apologize.
One of my issues with Williams as a reporter and “political analyst” (and I’m sure congress will need to investigate and defund me after I say this) is that his analyses shift depending on his audience. If a news story plays one way Monday at five in the afternoon on All Things Considered, how does it suddenly play a diametrically-opposed way at eight that night on The O’Reilly Factor? My other big issue is that he seems to think that Eyes on the Prize, This Far by Faith, and all of his (really excellent) writing about African American lives and history buys him a pass for every racist, bigoted, or just plain stupid thing he might say.
And, lest you’re concerned about Juan’s name being added to the rolls of the unemployed, he’s just signed a $2 million, 3-year contract with Fox. The man will do just fine without NPR. More importantly for me, I’ll do just fine witout hearing him on NPR.
My friend Josh asked me to consider the possibility that NPR’s quick reaction to fire Williams is akin to the Shirley Sherrod firing earlier this year. He pointed me to William Saletan’s piece on Slate that points out similarities between the oustings of Williams and Sherrod.
I have to say, I’m glad Josh pushed me to think about this story a bit more. Was the firing of Williams like the Sherrod story? For me the answer is no. Here’s what I wrote to Josh:
The Slate piece is interesting, but I don’t think the situations it compares are exactly parallel. The knee-jerk firing of Sherrod was made without knowing the full context, without bothering to know any of the back-story. NPR has been struggling with Williams’ comments for some time. His recent comments were more like the last straw than a sudden “discovery” of a problem.
I watched the video from the O’Reilly show and saw that there was more to it than the clip that was most quoted on the news this morning … I still support NPR’s decision. There’s been a string of comments from Williams in his appearances on the O’Reilly Factor that have been disappointing/troubling/crazy-making/offensive … the comment about the first lady was just one example.
I don’t know what Williams’ agenda might be, what his real feelings are about any of the issues he discusses. And I can’t claim to know, especially since he changes his position so fluidly depending on which show he’s appearing on. But that’s the real problem for me. I expect the news analysts I listen to to have a certain level of integrity … not the “truthiness” I get from Juan Williams.
I’d be interested to hear what you think about the sameness or not Williams’ story and Sherrod’s. Thanks, Josh, for making me go further into this, think it through a little more carefully.
And then there’s this Huffington Post bit from Michael Moore. So happy was I to see the back of Mr. Williams, I didn’t do my homework, didn’t realize the Shahzad quote he pointed to was, in fact, misquoted. Moore is generally way farther over to the right than I am, but I thank him for fact-checking Juan’s statement.