Like me, you probably saw last week that NPR fired Juan Williams for stating on Fox he gets nervous when he’s flying and sees Muslims on the plane. The story was hard to miss. Even NPR, not wanting to be left out of the news bonanza they created, covered the story.
I like Juan Williams. He’s always seemed to me an intellectually honest man who would concede another’s argument when correct, even if it didn’t line up with Williams’s political affiliations. That’s more than I can say for most of what I see from the talking heads on Fox, CNN and the other networks. And I think that’s part of what gets me about Williams’s sacking at NPR.
If you’ve not seen the entire segment from The O’Reilly Factor, I encourage you to watch it because you will see that, while Williams did make the statement attributed to him, the context of the statement is almost the exact opposite of what is being portrayed by the media and implied by NPR through it’s decision to fire Williams.
In the segment, Williams makes his candid admission as a predicate to his argument that people should be careful about making sweeping generalizations about Muslims. It’s O’Reilly who takes the reactionary position, which Williams tried to counter when O’Reilly allowed him to talk (which, as usual, wasn’t much).
Williams’s take, if you can piece it together with O’Reilly’s interruptions, is the right one. Even though people may may be concerned about getting on a plane with Muslims–and as Williams seems to suggest, there is nothing unreasonable about that fear given the multitude of Islamic terrorist acts directed at Americans–we must be careful about painting Muslims with a broad brush.
That is the right take. It’s not the politically correct take, which would insist on telling Williams he should not be concerned when getting on a plane with Muslims; nor is it the reactionary take that would label all Muslims latent terrorists. The tragedy here is not Williams’s statement but that he got fired for it.
The termination reflects poorly on NPR, and its CEO, Vivian Schiller, who compounded the blunder with a gaffe that was offensive. Schiller said Williams should have kept remarks about Muslims between himself and “his psychiatrist and publicist.”
I don’t know if Williams sees a psychiatrist. If he doesn’t Schiller’s remark is slanderous. If he does, the remark may be a HIPAA violation. Either way the remark displays a maturity better suited for talk radio than National Public Radio.
Schiller, to her credit, apparently realized this and quickly apologized to Williams publicly. But I’m still waiting to see if she will commit the self-sacking necessary to effectuate the consistent application of NPR company policy. I’m not holding my breath though because I suspect she values self-preservation over fairness (which, in fairness to her, makes her no different from most of us).
So, there you have it: another injustice in a fallen world that needs more of Jesus. GS