Speech policing by taxpayer and sponsor funded NPR

Posted By on October 26, 2010

In the hyper-sensitive political environment and deeper ‘left’ verses ‘right’ split in America, there are some subjects which some in the media see as off limits to open discussion. Juan_Williams_speaking_at_ChautauquaThe fallout for even broaching certain subjects is that the self-proclaimed “speech police” have little problem threaten ones job or flat out firing perceived offenders — it happened to seasoned news analyst and ironically ‘liberal’ political commentator Juan Williams last week.

In a recent The O’Reilly Factor program, Juan Williams in opposition to Bill O’Reilly’s “Muslims kill us on 9/11” lightning bolt comment on ABC’s The View, Williams attempted to stress the point that “extremist Muslims” attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and that broad brushstrokes were not helpful. His conservative debating partner Mary Katherine Ham points out, Juan stresses "the distinction between moderate and extremist Muslims no fewer than three times during the exchange.” In making his point, Juan Williams shared his personal feelings – not opinions that he endorsed or expected others to emulate:

"Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean, look Bill [O’Reilly], I’m not a bigot, you know the kind of books I’ve written on 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 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. But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam."

Williams is a distinguished journalist dedicated much of his career to writing about and documenting the African-American civil rights movement and senior national correspondent for NPR, formerly National Public Radio for the past 10 years and has never been vivian_shiller_nprceoaccused of prejudice or having bigoted positions. Nevertheless, he received a phone call after his exchange with Bill O’Reilly and was fired over the phone. To add insult to the classless firing, NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller had the unprofessionalism to insult his character and questioned his sanity smirking and suggesting Williams “feeling” should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist—take your pick," a comment she apologized for the next day.

Beside being an NPR news analyst, Juan Williams was also employed as a guest panelist and fill in host on the FoxNews cable channel. His role was to express the liberal viewpoint and counterpoint to conservative guests on commentary news programs.  In the past few years, NPR management commented that his point of view were seen as "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices” and they requested Williams not be identified as an NPR host when appearing on FoxNews. Their position was that FoxNews didn’t present balanced news and that their slant was decidedly conservative – interestingly FoxNews hires far more liberals than NPR hires conservatives … is the pot calling the kettle black? [my comment]

As a long time listener of NPR and as someone who enjoys the format of in-depth and calm voiced discussions on a variety of subjects, I was disappointed with their firing of Juan Williams. I don’t often agree with his positions, but as a person, he may just have been the most polite debater FoxNews has hired. Beside his viewpoints, I doubt he as a person could have been disliked by anyone.

When I listen to NPR, I know exactly what I’m getting when I tune into their network and their member stations … and yes, it’s a left leaning point of view, be it politics, books or the environment. At the same time, I also enjoy the less gentle and more argumentative right leaning points of view expressed on FoxNews — many of its programs. I don’t believe there are many fair-minded people who see things any different than me? I’ve secretly wished NPR would hire a few conservative voices to offer opposition to hosts and callers … just as FoxNews hires liberals to express a viewpoint from the left. Sadly, things do not look to be headed in that direction under current management.

It’s hard for me to believe that Williams was fired because of the comments above, yet several other NPR “news analysts” and program hosts offer commentary far more offensive and keep there jobs. I think NPR was gunning for Juan Williams ‘because’ he was ‘on’ FoxNews and saw this was the perfect opportunity to get rid of him. Their blunder may just have put the spotlight on their media organization – their colors and stripe are now on full display to the nation. Not only do people see their hypocrisy, but they also saw the 1.8 million dollars in funding given by left wing activist and billionaire George Soros. This might just be enough of a push for taxpayers to say, now why are we still funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? With the deficits where they are, hundreds if not thousands of media choices and skewed management in public broadcast advocating progressive views and outright support for liberal politics in America, now is the time to eliminate funding for this kind of media organization.

Follow-up: Juan Williams landed on his feet and his contract was not only renewed at FoxNews, but according to reports his duties were expanded and he received a significant raise.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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