Juan Williams was trying to do two things — one, in a personal way reflect the very human and emotional response that many have when they see those distinctively identifiable as Muslims on airplanes in a post-9/11 climate; and two, having said that, then explain why and how we should not in stereotypical fashion simply give in to those fears. His firing, of course, was manifestly unfair and he is now in the Orwellian position of having to explain why he is not a “bigot.” What he said was clearly different from what, for example, Helen Thomas said when she crudely called for Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine, go back to Poland and Germany.” Shortly after those remarks, she was given a lifetime award from CAIR — the same Islamic advocacy group that has now asked NPR to go after Williams.
Nor were Williams’s efforts as offensive as the president’s own snap judgment that police, in general, “stereotype” and, in particular, acted “stupidly” in the case of his friend Professor Gates — much less his infamous 2008 quip that his grandmother was a “typical white person.” I am sure someone is going to collate all the controversial remarks of NPR journalists and discover (a) that some were far more controversial than anything Williams said, and (b) they were not only not fired but not reprimanded, given the politically correct ideological profile of their particular targets.
I don’t agree with a lot of what Williams argues, but I like and respect him a great deal because he is intellectually honest, judicious, and logical, and always brings a certain dignity and calm to his opinions. NPR should know that by now. In sum, I wager that if Williams had had a second job at MSNBC or PBS, this would not be an issue. His Fox affiliation clearly is the subtext of the entire controversy.