« Hegel, On Love and Passion | Main | Friday Browser Dump »

October 21, 2010

Was Juan Williams Fired Because He's Black?

Provocative post title, no es verdad? Dan Riehl thinks so:

... if Juan Williams is impacted by the behavior of Muslims, then progressives - and NPR is that, can't lecture white America that their concerns are based on hate, religious intolerance, bigotry or xenophobia. Juan Williams didn't drop his mask and reveal any Islamophobia last night on Fox. What he did was rip the mask off the tactics NPR and other progressives, including the liberal media, use to lecture America and prevent an honest discussion of the threat from Islam.

I agree with Dan in one respect - I think denial has a lot to do with why NPR decided to apply its conveniently flexible "editorial standards" to statements made by Williams on another network. Fortunately for my personal supply of schadenfreude, Williams wasn't the only one to stray off the ideological reservation this week:

Shirley Sherrod, meet Juan Williams.

Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her.

Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot. They circulated the video on the Internet, and last night, NPR fired him.

Saletan goes on to point out that no reasonable person watching Williams' comments that night (and I was) would construe them as a ringing endorsement of racism:

The damning video clip of Williams, like the damning clip of Sherrod, cuts off the speaker just as he's about to reverse course. According to the full transcript, immediately after saying, "I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts," Williams continues: "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." That continuation has been conveniently snipped from the excerpt.

A few seconds later, Williams challenges O'Reilly's suggestion that "the Muslims attacked us on 9/11." Williams points out how wrong it would be to generalize similarly about Christians:

Except that the "McVeigh/Christianist/terrorist" meme is pretty standard fare for lefty pundits (none of whom have been fired or even reprimanded for their offensive intolerance as far as I know). I went back to see what I had to say during the Sherrod brouhaha:

Because blaming Bush FoxNews never gets old:

The White House spokesman and the agriculture secretary weren't the only ones offering regrets Wednesday to the lower-level official abruptly fired over a videotape excerpt that turned out to be totally misleading. Bill O'Reilly apologized to Shirley Sherrod as well.

But for all the chatter -- some of it from Sherrod herself -- that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly. After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: "Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right."

Sherrod may be the only official ever dismissed because of the fear that Fox host Glenn Beck might go after her. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tried to pressure her into resigning, Sherrod says Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook called her Monday to say "do it, because you're going to be on 'Glenn Beck' tonight." And for all the focus on Fox, much of the mainstream media ran with a fragmentary story that painted an obscure 62-year-old Georgian as an unrepentant racist.

I think Rick Lowry got this one right:

Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America -- chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves."

Years ago the Spousal Unit got into it with a senior Naval officer who proceeded to complain to the Unit's boss. My husband was not only in the right but acted with integrity in a tough situation. I've never forgotten how his boss handled it - he informed the offended officer that his description didn't sound like my husband at all and before responding to the complaint he felt honor bound to hear my husband's side of the story.

That's not exactly rocket science but it's a shame how few bosses show that kind of loyalty and common sense to their subordinates. A little of that courage would have gone a long way here.

Though I agree with Saletan on the transcendent silliness of firing someone for a sentiment that is precisely the opposite of what they did say, I think there's a bit of revisionist history going on here.

"The Right" didn't fire Shirley Sherrod.
The OBAMA administration fired Sherrod.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, but once again it isn't the right who fired someone for saying That Which Must Not Be Said, but NPR, a left leaning network paid for with federal tax dollars.

What's the common thread here? Progressives stifling speech they don't like, even when it is made outside the course and scope of the employer/employee relationship. Of course some kinds of intolerant bigotry don't violate NPR's lofty editorial standards and practices:

There will be no apology and Fiore's cartoon is staying up, said Ellen Weiss, senior vice president for news. "Opinion and satire are going to sting some members of the audience and soothe others," she said, noting NPR has received some positive feedback. "This one satire is not the only coverage on the topic and while it offends some members of the audience, I see no reason to remove it."

I don't think Williams was fired because he's black. I think he was fired for speaking an inconvenient truth because the credibility of progressivism depends to a large extent on preventing critics from pointing out how the real world works. What we're supposed to focus on is how a hypothetical, utopian world none of us have ever seen would work, if only that world actually existed anywhere outside the imagination of lefty pundits and Paul Krugman.

Reminding the public that the real world doesn't work the way we wish it did tends to harsh the whole progressive mellow. Consequently, we get lefty pundits and news anchors alike erupting in outrage over the unsurprising fact that unemployment benefits make people less likely to take paying jobs.

Never mind that it's true. Damn it all, IT SHOULDN'T BE TRUE, and if you rudely insist on reminding the public of the way things actually work, you are a cynical naysayer. Reality, it would appear, has a cynical bias.

Administration officials have threatened American businesses for daring to speak the unsurprising truth that they can't provide more benefits without increasing premium prices to cover their increased costs.

Wow. You mean businesses can't make a profit unless the prices they charge cover their costs? Who knew?

Recently two professors attempted to point out the unsurprising fact that most of us do not go to work every day in order that we might receive a heaping helping of Social Justice on payday. An even more shocking revelation was to follow: people who make lots of money really do consider the effect of tax policy when deciding how many hours they should work every week.

Those of us who do not rush down to the nearest homeless shelter every week to sign over our paychecks may have found this news less than earth shattering, yet still it must not be spoken of.

So many inconvenient truths... so little time to deploy that Chilling Effect we were all so exercised about during the BusHitler years.


Posted by Cassandra at October 21, 2010 01:20 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


While the attacks may have come from opposite directions, it was "friendly" fire from oh-so-compassionate-and-tolerant libs that set off the "You're Fired" bomb. Firing squads are not supposed to form in circles.

Posted by: John A at October 21, 2010 05:40 PM

Whoopi Goldberg gave up the game when she went on Greta van Susteren's On The Record and cynically and deliberately distorted Bill O'Reilly's statement on The View--from which entire discussion at the time Goldberg ran away in such cowardice.

O'Reilly's statement was, "Muslims killed us on 9/11." Goldberg's deliberate distortion of that statement on On The Record was, "[O'Reilly] said all Muslims killed us on 9/11."

And that's how so much of the left so dishonestly argue. They distort what someone who's not reciting the proper script says, and then use that made-up "quote" to engage in ad hominem attacks on that wrong-sayer.

I don't know if Mr Williams' firing was racist, and Mr Williams is not claiming that it was. He does, though, point out that he was the only black man on NPR's air. Certainly, though, NPR's cowardly firing of Mr Williams (they didn't even have the courage to face him; they fired him over the phone) was an act of bigotry.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at October 21, 2010 06:14 PM

To face someone and fire them takes a certain amount of courage, even if you have a security squad lining the walls. It's obvious that someone doesn't have that. I have not always -- or even often -- agreed with him, but this is shameful conduct by NPR, and says much more about them than about him.

Posted by: htom at October 21, 2010 06:36 PM

This is not the first time NPR has had a hissy fit at Williams - awhile ago they forbade him from using the title "NPR Commentator" when talking on Fox.

I REALLY don't think his color had anything to do with his firing. His straying from the plantation of allowed worldview did. And the head of NPR's statement about Williams today was as horrifying unprofessional as I've ever seen in my life:

Juan Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist."

And most of all, what I'm wondering here is when the President is going to weigh in.

Posted by: airforcewife at October 21, 2010 08:08 PM

When you have liberals like Whoopi Goldberg, Pat Cadell and Bob Beckel all saying how what NPR did was wrong, you KNOW it's REALLY bad...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2010 10:37 PM

Oh, and Frank Luntz did a focus group and asked them about it. EVERYONE - Democrat and Republican alike - thought Williams was unfairly fired, and all but two thought NPR should give him his job back. If they do make that offer, he'd be better off not taking it...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 21, 2010 10:39 PM

Selective journalism: S.S.D.D.

Posted by: camojack at October 22, 2010 01:32 AM

people who make lots of money really do consider the effect of tax policy when deciding how many hours they should work every week.

I am certain Juan Williams paused for all of one billionth of a second before signing his shiny new $2,000,000 contract with FOX because of his concerns about how much more in taxes he would have to pay.

Posted by: Craig at October 22, 2010 09:53 AM

I am less "certain" than Craig about how long Juan Williams spent deliberating the tax consequences of his new employment contract, but a billionth of a second certainly seems remarkable. The only thing that I am truly "certain" about, however, is that whatever Mr. Williams new salary may be it will not be subsidized by tax-payer dollars, including Mr. Williams' own. La. Di. Da.

On the other hand, I think NPR should be permitted to hire and fire at will...once they become a private-sector company, of course.

Posted by: spd rdr at October 22, 2010 10:42 AM

Even private-sector companies are bound by the terms of employment contracts they sign, and the typical "for cause" provision has a fair amount of ambiguity in it.

Posted by: david foster at October 22, 2010 11:00 AM

Juan Williams acted stupidly. He got just what he deserved.

Now, watch this drive! Fore!

Posted by: Barack H. Obama, I won! at October 22, 2010 12:19 PM

I can't help thinking it would be retributive justice if Juan Williams' grandchildren were killed by someone in Muslim garb.

Nyah nyah nyah!!!! I got away with it AGAIN!!!!

Posted by: Nina Totenberg, Emphatically *not* expressing an intolerant personal opinion at October 22, 2010 12:25 PM

How many blacks do you know that support Juan? None. I'm black and hope he goes away forever. I know he will be appearing more often on Fox, but I block Fox.

Posted by: Ann at October 22, 2010 01:22 PM

Are black opinions more relevant than white opinions?

Is that really what you meant to say, Ann?

You are completely within your rights to refuse to listen to news and opinions that don't confirm your pre-existing opinions.

Some of us (and I'm one who frequently disagrees with Mr. Williams but finds him thought provoking nonetheless) prefer to step outside the echo chamber.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 22, 2010 01:27 PM

I don't know about Juan, but I do know my Aunt has said she will drop from working 4 days/week to 3 days/week to keep her and her husbands income below $250k.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at October 22, 2010 03:15 PM

NPR does not tolerate blacks that don't do what the Leftist mastah tells em.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 22, 2010 06:31 PM