Following up on Greg’s post below, National Public Radio’s ombudsman has penned a column addressing listener complaints about her network’s most controversial personality: Left-leaning analyst fire-breathing rightwinger, Juan Williams.
What transgression did Williams commit that so inflamed NPR’s listeners? He dared to suggest that Michelle Obama might become a political liability for the White House. Oh, and he appears regularly on Fox News:
Last year, 378 listeners emailed me complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox. The listener themes are similar: Williams “dishonors NPR.” He’s an “embarrassment to NPR.” “NPR should severe their relationship with him.”
The latest flap involves Williams’ comment on Fox about First Lady Michelle Obama. To date, I’ve received 56 angry emails.
Fifty-six angry emails! That borders on a fullscale Volvo/espresso revolt. As Greg mused, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if, say, Jonah Goldberg receives at least that many hostile notes every single day. Nevertheless, NPR’s hand-wringing is well under way.
Williams also appears regularly as a news analyst on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, and occasionally on Morning Edition and Day to Day.
“We don’t monitor what Juan says on Fox — or for that matter, his books or other appearances,” said Simon by email. “Juan is one of the foremost chroniclers of the history of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and African-American life…I think the world of Juan, and he is on our show because the analysis that he offers is insightful, reasoned, fair-minded and interesting.”
But after watching the Fox segment, Simon said, “What can I say? That’s not the Juan Williams who is on our show.”
That may be the cause of the criticism. Williams tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox.
In other words, Williams tailors his delivery based on his audience. Isn’t that Media 101? Apparently the notion that NPR’s patented cure for insomnia might not translate effectively on cable news is entirely lost on Mr. Simon. Reacting swiftly to the infuriated dozens’ outcry, NPR’s suits have settled on Williams’ punishment, essentially an embarrassing slap on the wrist:
As a result of this latest flap, NPR’s Vice President of News, Ellen Weiss, has asked Williams to ask that Fox remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O’Reilly.
I have great admiration for Juan Williams. Although we rarely agree on issues, his arguments almost always strike me as thoughtful, measured, and ideologically unpredictable. Having had the pleasure of meeting Juan a few times, I can also attest that he’s a heck of a nice guy. He brings so much to the table for both media outlets, and it’s a true shame that a handful of intolerant complainers can generate a phony firestorm to discredit him.
NPR’s ombudsman can be reached for comment here.