Was Juan Williams fired over his remark about Muslims, or was it just an excuse to get rid of an excellent news analyst and a man of character who constantly irritated his National Public Radio coworkers and superiors by rubbing shoulders with his ideological opposites at the Fox News Channel?
Even Vivian Schiller, the president and CEO of NPR, admitted in a memo to NPR stations that "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[sic]."
And what principle is that? That he has opinions or because he dares to air them on that "evil" but highly rated cable behemoth? (I always thought it was petty for NPR to not allow Williams to identify himself as an NPRer on certain Fox News shows.)
Schiller displayed some interesting principles today when she remarked at an event at the Atlanta Press Club that whatever feelings Williams has about Muslims should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist." (She later backpedaled a bit, saying, "I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark.")
I doubt she'll be summarily dismissed in an impersonal phone call for her remarks like NPR vice president Ellen Weiss did with Williams.
More proof that Williams' firing is more about his extracurricular activities on Fox than his alleged Muslim insensitivities, comes from NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepherd, who this afternoon on NPR's Talk of the Nation said that Williams should not have been fired but should have been given an ultimatum: Choose either Fox or us.
I have not always agreed with the opinions of Juan Williams, but I have appreciated the way he respectfully debates the issues of our day, often with good humor and with little or no spite. But being a liberal these days means you must toe the line or, as Cal Thomas wrote this morning, you're committing "political blasphemy." It's too bad that NPR would rather silence those who disagree with its publicly funded ideology-or people like Williams who just hang out with the opposition-rather than encourage an open debate of ideas.
All I can say is watch out, Mara Liasson.
(Editor's Note: Be sure to read Marvin Olasky's interview with Juan Williams from the Feb. 3, 2007, issue of WORLD.)
ADDENDUM: Michael Barone makes an excellent point in his Washington Examiner column:
"Reading between the lines of Juan's statement and those of NPR officials, it's apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: while many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn't seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience."