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The Juan Williams firing

October 28, 2010 - Jim Anderson
There are a number of reasons why Juan Williams shouldn’t have been fired from NPR.

Most importantly, his remarks about Muslims weren’t analyzed within the full context of his exchange with Bill O’Reilly. (Our online poll is running 90 percent against the firing.)

Williams’ dismissal is full of irony. Hired now by Fox News at a salary beyond the wildest dreams of an NPR reporter, he’s hardly a “victim” of political correctness.

He’s coming out a winner, I believe, in part because there’s a double standard in the U.S. when it comes to fearing Muslims.

Here are Williams’ offending remarks:

“I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. 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.”

Uncertain about whether that’s offensive?

Let’s try this substitution in the key phrases.

“... When I go into, say, Wal-Mart, I got to tell you, if I see a priest wearing his collar and I think, you know, he’s identifying himself first and foremost as a priest, I get worried for the safety of the children, I get nervous.”

Offensive? Absolutely. Tragic? Yes. A fair correlation to the remarks made by Williams?

Yes, maybe so.

Williams remarks were made during a conversation in which he warned against religious bigotry.

He mentioned, specifically, the intellectual weakness of all generalizations:

“... If you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals—very obnoxious—you don't say first and foremost, ‘We got a problem with Christians.’ That's crazy.”

Writing at, William Saletan defends Williams with this eloquent statement:

“Sometimes a confession of prejudice is part of a larger reflection on the perils of prejudice.”

Williams should not have been fired for what he said.

But neither should he be celebrated ... certainly not until he, and Fox News, acknowledge that concerns about his remarks were genuine.



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