Right wing reaction to Juan Williams’ firing by NPR over a comment he made on his TV job at Fox was as predictable as it was inane. John Boehner called NPR “a left wing radio network,” an accurate assessment if one accepts the premise that he speaks from the political center. Mr. Williams, who is understandably upset at losing a second job, called it “an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics.” He referred to “one party rule” at the network and went on to say that this sort of “enforced ideology” leads to “journalists being sent to the gulag.”
Apart from Mr. Williams’ hyperbole, I question his common sense. The comment at issue is that he worried when he saw people in “Muslim Garb” on an airplane. Offhand I’d say that trying to board a plane in full Islamic regalia with the intention of blowing it up has a Keystone Kops touch to it. As I recall the perpetrators of 9/11 were dressed in coats and ties.
I’d like to know Mr. Williams’ take on ABC’s terminating Bill Maher’s “Politically Correct” show which, in contrast to NPR, made no pretense at impartiality. Maher’s infraction was agreeing with a guest who opined that “cowardly” is a pejorative word that doesn’t apply to an act involving suicide.
If NPR was remiss it was in keeping Williams on its payroll after he joined Fox, an organization whose “Fair and Balanced” logo is fast becoming a laugh line. His on air appraisal of Michelle Obama, during the week of her husband’s inauguration a year and a half ago, should have put an end to his double dipping. “…she’s got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer-dress thing going.”
Williams must be skilled at saying different things to different audiences inconspicuously in order to have juggled these jobs as long as he did. Maybe he was hoping that nobody who listens to NPR would watch Fox? I agree with John Boehner’s implication that NPR, a taxpayer financed organization, must be impartial. But it seems to me that any transgression would favor his people, given their not too thinly veiled threats against the network. Then again I don’t think accurate news reporting would do them a bit of good. One thing on which we all can probably agree is that Fox must pay better for this sort of work than NPR.