Significance of NPR Firing Juan Williams

Riding off the wave of anger over O’Reilly’s tussle with the View ladies is a new controversy over National Public Radio political analyst, or should I say, former political analyst Juan Williams who admitted on O’Reilly Factor that he felt nervous when he saw Muslims at airports wearing “Muslim garb” because they were “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims.”

NPR announced his firing on Thursday, which set off the blogosphere, especially with conservative commentators and leaders who quickly rallied in Williams defense. Then news broke that Fox News has given Williams a contract for the show and NPR is receiving criticism over censorship and bias as a publicly funded organization.

This story opens up a number of ethical dilemmas involving what is permissible for a public versus private organization, the extent of the protection of free speech as guaranteed in the 1st Amendment versus acceptance of “bigotry,” objectivity versus bias and the appropriate conduct for an analyst versus a journalist.

Many people frequently say that if many people share Williams’ view, then it is a true observation and not a bigoted statement. It is a rationalized fear.

Fox News reported that the firing could be influence by pressure from CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations to not accept Williams’ statements since they would not be tolerated towards any other racial, ethnic or religious group in America.

Williams criticizes the fact that he was being honest and did go on to defend Muslims and that they shouldn’t be all grouped together as terrorists either. He said he wasn’t given the chance to defend himself to NPR and no one spoke to him before he was swiftly removed from his position at the station.

What’s interesting it not just that Fox News commentators rallied behind Williams, but that the organization rushed to hand him a million contract. That move seems like a calculated smack in the face at NPR for what Fox News sees as a poor decision.

It still seems that it is still a dilemma over how to describe and talk about terrorism without being offensive to Muslims, but people like O’Reilly and Williams are tired of having to be cautious in doing so. Others are not so indulgent in permitting it and I will not be surprised to see more fiery debates about this issue in the future.

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