Juan Williams Should Have Been Removed As NPR News Analyst–But Not For These Remarks

Juan Williams was fired as a news analyst by NPR for comments taken as anti-Muslim while appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s show:

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, 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.”

Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “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,” Mr. Williams said.

There has already been considerable debate on line over these comments. Taken by themselves there is a lot of room for discussion and disagreement, but if we are solely looking at these comments alone I personally do not believe they were sufficient to fire Mr. Williams.

Things get more complicated when looking at the specific duties of Williams’ position and the long history of problems. Williams really should have been removed as a news analyst long ago. If he had an show where it was more appropriate for a host to express their own opinions it would be a different matter, but a news analyst should be held to a higher standard. I believe Williams should have been removed as a news analyst long ago, just as I agreed with NBC in removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of debate and election coverage. Williams should not appear on Fox for the same reasons other NPR correspondents have been instructed that they should not attend Jon Stewart’s upcoming rally.

At best Williams is a second rate journalist and his removal will be to NPR’s benefit. Williams cannot reliably serve as an objective news analyst if he also works for Fox. Fox has repeatedly been exposed as an operation formed to promote extremist right wing views and support the Republican Party and is not a legitimate news outfit. Williams’ work at Fox has long been an issue at NPR. It was naive to think that Williams could fill his roles at both networks. Williams was moved from correspondent to analyst due to the credibility problems raised by his work at Fox but such bias is not appropriate for either position. NPR should have given Williams the choice long ago of either discontinuing his work at Fox or leaving his role as a new analyst at NPR.

It was a mistake to fire Williams over specific comments as opposed to the overall problems created by Williams working for both a legitimate news organization and a right wing propaganda outfit. I might feel  sorry for Williams if his career and livelihood had been ruined over these comments alone but his income will actually increase tremendously from both an expanded role at Fox and potentially elsewhere in the right wing noise machine.

Unfortunately most of the discussion has centered on Williams’ latest comments as opposed to his overall suitability to remain at NPR. The reasons are better clarified in this memo to the stations:

Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:05 PM Subject: Juan WilliamsDear AREPS,

Thank you for all of your varying feedback on the Juan Williams situation. Let me offer some further clarification about why we terminated his contract early.

First, a critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview – not our reporters and analysts.

Second, this isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal.

Third, these specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR’s ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts):

“In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”

More fundamentally, “In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.”

Unfortunately, Juan’s comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.

We’re profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan’s comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.

This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.



Vivian Schiller
President & CEO, NPR

Rand Paul Chickens Out of “Meet The Press” Interview

After demonstrating that he is not ready for prime time (or to serve in the United States Senate), Rand Paul has now chickened out of a planned appearance on Meet the Press.  Actually David Gregory should be a lot easier to handle than Rachel Maddow.I doubt Gregory has the intelligence to challenge Paul’s beliefs, and demonstrate how absurd they are, as Maddow did.

If he’s not going to appear on MSNBC or NBC, does he have the guts to do another  interview on NPR? I’d love to see him do an interview with Terry Gross as I think back to what she did to Bill O’Reilly (who walked out without finishing the interview).

I imagine he’ll do what Sarah Palin did when she couldn’t handle real interviews and spend a lot of time on Fox.

Bill O’Reilly’s Bizarre Theory On Ignorant Female Conservatives

Conservatives who have no concern about things such as facts and logical arguments have created the myth (believed only by themselves) that ignorant female conservative politicians such as Michelle Brachmann and Sarah Palin are disliked by the left because they are female as opposed to because of their ignorance. Bill O’Reilly raised this in an interview with Michelle Bachmann (video above). Transcript follows (hat tip to Think Progress):

O’REILLY: Do you think — and this is an off-the-wall question. And I’m telling the audience that it’s just something that’s occurred to me. Both you and Sarah Palin are good-looking women. I mean, you’re attractive, young — relatively young — women who other women can identify with. You’re a mom, a wife. You had a private-sector job.

I think that’s it. I think that the success of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann drive the far left crazy because you don’t fit — they don’t like what you believe in, but you can attract others to listen to you. I think that’s what’s going on.

No, it is not because of them being attractive or women. I’ve already discussed the problems with Sarah Palin in multiple previous postsThe Democratic Party has released a list of many of Bachmann’s more absurd statements along with fact checking from independent sources. Reading through the linked site should explain why the left thinks so little of her.

Extremism and Conspiracy Theories

I spent much of Saturday driving which meant little opportunity for blogging but I did spend part of the time listening to podcasts of recent NPR shows. One of particular interest was of last Thursday’s episode of Fresh Air entitled Extremism, Conspiracy Theory And Murder. Terry Gross interviewed Chip Berlet, who provided background on extremism and conspiracy theories. The show concentrated on right wing extremism, noting nine murders by right wing extremists so far this year, including the recent killing of a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The show also discussed the atmosphere of hatred created by the right wing media and how it promotes violence from the more unhinged element of the right. Berlet discussed the manner in which Bill O’Reilly targeted George Tiller. He argued that while he could not be held legally responsible for the murder, O’ Reilly is morally responsible.

While they primarily discussed right wing extremism and conspiracy theories, going back to conspiracy theories involving the Bavarian Illuminati, Freemasons, and the Elders of Zion, the show did also touch on conspiracy theories held by some on the extreme left with a discussion of the 9/11 “truther” theories.

Top 10 Reasons Sarah Palin’s “Outrage” is Misplaced and A Little Late…

It took only a few moments with Google to demonstrate that David Letterman was hardly alone in making jokes about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. I didn’t even think of searching for jokes about the younger daughter, but it turns out there have been some by other comedians. As all of these jokes are in poor taste I didn’t really want to be the first to post such a collection, but Shannyn Moore has now posted such a compilation at Huffington Post:

Top 10 Reasons Sarah Palin’s “Outrage” is Misplaced and A Little Late…

10) Last September, a skit on Saturday Night Live suggested incest in the Palin family. “What about the husband?” asked a mock Times reporter. “You know he’s doing those daughters. I mean, come on. It’s Alaska!” No outrage. Sarah Palin appeared on the show one month later in late October.

9) Days after the announcement of Bristol’s pregnancy, Conan O’Brien joked, “It’s true, John McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, has revealed that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Palin said, ‘We should never have introduced her to John Edwards.'” Where was the outrage? Was Conan promoting infidelity with an underage girl?

8 ) From two different Tonight Shows: “Governor Palin announced over the weekend that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. Oh, boy, you thought John Edwards was in trouble before, now he’s really done it!” AND…”All the Republicans are heaping praise on Governor Palin. Fred Thompson said, as an actor, he could see them making a movie about Sarah Palin and her family. Didn’t they already make that movie? I think it was called ‘Knocked Up!'”–Jay Leno

7) Craig Ferguson’s skit of “Larry King vs Levi Johnston” asks about “kinky sex” with the drapes open. Craig Ferguson’s honorary Alaska citizenship, granted by Governor Palin wasn’t rescinded.

6) “According to expense reports, Sarah Palin charged the state of Alaska over $21,000 for her children to travel with her on official business. In fairness to Gov. Palin, when she leaves them home alone they get pregnant.” –Seth Meyers (SNL). Sarah Palin was in a sketch with Meyers a week earlier.

5) On October 8, 2008, Sarah Palin walked out on the ice with six year old Piper and 13 year old Willow, before the game, Conan O’Brien said, “Saturday night, Sarah Palin is going to drop the first puck at the Philadelphia Flyers’ hockey game. Then Palin will spend the rest of the game trying to keep the hockey players out of her daughter’s penalty box.”
Oh, yes he did. You get the outrage…but not a peep then. According to the new “logic”, O’Brien was advocating for some really sick stuff.

4) Rush Limbaugh: “Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?” Limbaugh put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. At the time, Chelsea Clinton was 13 years old. Rush also said, “In last year’s campaign, the most prominent, articulate voice for standard run-of-the-mill good old-fashioned American conservatism was Sarah Palin.” Calling a young teenager a “dog” can’t be helpful to her “self-esteem.” Where is the apology from the leader of the GOP?

3) “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.”–John McCain, Sarah Palin’s running mate. Should McCain apologize to every young woman in America?

2) Palin’s friend, political defender and informer of the David Letterman comments, John Ziegler, was fired from his radio show for using the “n-word” online and on air in 1997. In 2000, he was fired for spelling the “n-word” on the air. How much does that word affect the psychological health of America’s youth, regardless of their race? Now he is pimping his film about how mean the “liberal media” was to Sarah Palin.

AND…The NUMBER 1 REASON Sarah Palin’s Outrage is Misplaced and A Little Late…

1) The “candidate who must be obeyed” was talking about Palin’s family when he said, “Kids are off limits.” Jake Tapper of ABC News interviewed then Candidate Obama, and asked, “Governor Palin and her husband issued a statement today saying their 17-year-old daughter Bristol, who is unmarried, is five months pregnant. Do you have any reaction?”

OBAMA: “I have said before and I will repeat again, I think people’s families are off-limits. And people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president. And so I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And, you know, how family deals with issues and — and, you know, teenaged children, that shouldn’t be the topic of — of our politics.”

The Palin children have been fodder for comedians since they were brought to the national stage. Incest isn’t funny. Ugly kid jokes aren’t funny. Many of the things said about public figures are just flat wrong. Being “knocked up” isn’t much fun. Racist comments hurt all of us. I exhausted the top 10 list before I ran out of outrageous instances ignored by the Palins.

The National Organization for Women named David Letterman to their Hall of Shame. Will Letterman be joining Jay Leno? Conan O’Brien? Craig Ferguson? Seth Myers? Rush Limbaugh? Or John McCain? Of course not! I guess N.O.W. didn’t bother checking Sarah Palin’s “feminist” credentials. All across America, right wing radio and television talk show hosts feigned outrage in perfect synchronicity. The same people who back up Palin’s high drama assertions against Letterman ignored the connections between Bill O’Reilly’s irresponsible incitement and the murder of Dr. George Tiller. David Letterman, a late night entertainer, apologized. Fox New’s Bill O’Reilly has not.

As a parent, I understand being defensive. I just wonder what took so long. Why now?

Why now? The answer is simple. The right wing “outrage” has nothing to do with feminism and certainly nothing to do with jokes about Palin’s children. The right wing blogs were attacking Letterman over a Sarah Palin joke after Monday’s show before they realized they could attract more attention by falsely claiming Letterman was joking about Palin’s minor daughter as opposed to Bristol Palin. While Letterman’s joke was clearly about Bristol, other jokes above were not. While Letterman’s latest joke was about Bristol Palin after turning 18, and after she has been appearing in public speaking about her pregnancy, it is also notable that the above jokes were at the time about Palin’s 17-year-old daughter.

While the jokes were in poor taste, as even David Letterman admitted, they hardly deserved the attention they received–unless the attackers have other motives for their attacks. This controversy is just another in a long string of examples of how the authoritarian right opposes freedom of speech and desires to silence anyone who disagrees with their reactionary agenda, and lying about what others have said is a frequent tactic which they employ.

The Playboy Guide To Raping Conservative Women

Right wing bloggers are  making a lot of noise about an item on conservative women which had been on Playboy’s web site written by Guy Cimbalo. Sometimes when the conservative blogosphere makes a lot of noise their complaints are nonsense. While Playboy took down the material, The Activist Conservative has posted screen captures. Just a quick glance of them was enough to convince me that the conservative bloggers are entirely correct in objecting to this vile material.

If we are going to object to Bill O’Reilly saying things which can be taken to incite extremists to murder an abortion doctor, we should also object to this article which virtually advocates the rape of conservative women. While conservative sites are often guilty of hyperbole in their attacks, I note that Hot Air was actually somewhat restrained in writing “A “hate f**k” sounds like something perhaps just short of rape, but degrading enough to entertain the perverted twerps at Playboy.”  At least Playboy’s terminology does make it clear that this form of rape is a crime of hatred, whether they are advocating rape or something “just short of rape.” Right Wing News also shows similar restraint in writing, “Still, I’d have to say Guy Cimbalo is probably not endorsing rape — probably.” He sure comes damn close to it.

Jessica Alba Outsmarts Bill O’Reilly


Jessica Alba has shown that she can defeat Bill O’Reilly as easily as she can beat the Silver Surfer, especially if the challenge is a history quiz:

Jessica Alba is setting the record straight: Sweden was neutral during World War II.

Alba and Fox TV show host Bill O’Reilly traded punches last week after the presidential inauguration. After Alba told a Fox reporter that O’Reilly was “kind of an a-hole;” he retaliated by calling her a “pinhead” for telling a reporter to “be Sweden about it,” assuming she meant Switzerland.

“I want to clear some things up that have been bothering me lately,” Alba blogged on MySpace Celebrity. “Last week, Mr. Bill O’Reilly and some really classy sites (i.e.TMZ) insinuated I was dumb by claiming Sweden was a neutral country. I appreciate the fact that he is a news anchor and that gossip sites are inundated with intelligent reporting, but seriously people… it’s so sad to me that you think the only neutral country during WWII was Switzerland.”

Although Switzerland is more frequently cited as an example of neutrality, Sweden did indeed follow a policy of neutrality during World War II. History point to Alba.

Somewhat Related Post: Mathematicians Prove Jessica Alba’s Perfection

Christmas: A Jewish Conspiracy

With all his concern about the bogus War on Christmas, Bill O’Reilly is missing the real conspiracy. Jews are taking over Christmas–or at least the songs. Jeffery Goldberg mocks a complaint that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has religious overtones:

Of course, the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by a Jewish-American songwriter, Johnny Marks. He also wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Also written by Jews: “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” and of course, the mother of all Jewish-written Christmas songs, “White Christmas,” by Irving Berlin.  Why, you could almost say there’s a conspiracy by Jews to dominate the Christmas-jingle-writing industry!

If the plan works, we will have the Christianists spending more time singing harmless songs and far less time on promoting the teaching of creationism in schools, restricting abortion rights, preventing embryonic stem cell research, and worrying about who can get married.

Update: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in the original Yiddish.

Obama and McCain Tie In TV Audience for Acceptance Speeches

Now that the PBS numbers have been included in the ratings it looks like a tie between the audiences watching the acceptance speeches by Barack Obama and John McCain with each estimated at having 42.4 million viewers. There is no count for C-SPAN. Obama’s speech was also given at the start of a holiday weekend, possibly reducing his audience. (I watched with a small group in our suite at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island as we knocked off a bottle of Bailey’s. Thanks to picking up a Slingbox bofore leaving on vacation I also managed to catch other parts of the convention on line over my Palm while out of the room.)

Fox had the highest ratings for the Republican convention while CNN had the highest ratings for the Democratic convention. Bill O’Reilly received his second highest ratings ever for the first night of his interview with Obama.

Interest of this magnitude in the race is encouraging, suggesting large numbers will also follow the campaign through the fall. Hopefully they will also watch critically, noticing that John McCain’s new slogan might be “American First, Truth Second.” Factcheck.org has exposed many of the untrue statements in McCain’s acceptance speech. McCain has distorted the truth so badly about Obama’s proposals that even Fox News has pointed out McCain’s dishonesty on two occasions that I’m aware of.

Attack on Conservative Revealed To Be A Hoax

Over the weekend there was a story about a conservative being assaulted because of his views at Princeton. Following recent posts here on the murder of someone who supported evolution by a creationist and attacks on people celebrating Hanukkah, I almost posted on this in the spirit of opposing violence regardless of the political motivation. However, while I couldn’t prove it, something smelled funny about this story and I decided against posting about it. Perhaps it was the number of exaggerated claims of suppression of free speech conservatives have claimed, or the number of totally erroneous incidents people like Bill O’Reilly have cited in their reports of a War on Christmas. I’ve just become skeptical of all the stories of conservatives as victims.

I certainly was not going to post my skepticism yesterday because it would both be awful if a conservative was really assaulted at Princeton for his beliefs and I would hate to question such a story if it was true. In this case my gut feeling was right. It was confirmed today that the story was fabricated.