NPR’s announcement last night of its firing of news analyst Juan Williams, some 48 hours after making “anti-Muslim” remarks, followed a statement released earlier yesterday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for the taxpayer-funded network to take action.
National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard told Richard Prince’s Journal-isms blog her office “spent most of Wednesday fielding phone calls and emails from NPR listeners angry and upset by what Juan Williams said about Muslims.” Shepard, who agreed with the firing, said NPR received “at least 60 emails, and that was in response to something he said on another network.”
NPR announced the termination last night, stating Williams’ remarks on the Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
NPR’s senior manager for media relations, Anna Christopher, told WND that NPR does not know how many of the complaints came from Muslims.
She said CAIR’s statement “may have been a factor” in NPR’s decision to end its 10-year relationship with Williams, “but we wouldn’t be influenced by one outside group when it comes to a personnel decision.”
“That one call would never sway NPR’s editors from making a decision like this,” she told WND. “We certainly did not make this decision lightly or without regret.”
Christopher said, after asking NPR management, that she didn’t think CAIR had contacted NPR directly about Williams, although she “would imagine that some of the people who wrote in and called may have been members of CAIR or saw CAIR’s call to action.”
The remarks that brought Williams trouble came when he was discussing with host Bill O’Reilly how “political correctness” can prevent the nation from fully confronting the threat Islam poses to security.
The remarks that got Williams fired:
“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil-rights movement in this country,” Williams began.
“But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous,” he said.
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in yesterday’s statement that NPR “should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats.”
“Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR,” Awad said.
CAIR describes itself as a civil-rights group, but FBI evidence points to its origin as a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Justice Department designated it an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terror-finance case in U.S. history.
The CAIR statement yesterday paraphrased Awad claiming “media commentators who launch rhetorical attacks on Islam and Muslims normally do not suffer the professional consequences of those who similarly target other racial, ethnic or religious groups.”
CAIR noted it recently announced the launch of a department devoted to addressing “the alarming rise of Islamophobic sentiment in American society.”
The Washington, D.C.-based Islamic group, which has more than a dozen former and current leaders with known associations with violent jihad, is suing two investigators behind WND Books’ best-selling expose “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America”.
In its announcement of Williams’ firing, NPR said the correspondent “has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret.”
“However, his remarks on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
This morning, Williams, a regular contributor to Fox News, defended his remarks in an interview with the network.
“It’s not a bigoted statement,” Williams said. “In fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O’Reilly, I said we have an obligation as Americans to be careful to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in our country and to make sure that we don’t have any outbreak of bigotry. But that there’s a reality. You cannot ignore what happened on 9/11 and you cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism, and you can’t ignore the fact of what has even recently been said in court with regard to this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war in America.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Williams’ firing by the government-funded NPR “total censorship” and called for a congressional investigation.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who hosts a Fox News weekend show, said in a statement he will “no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it IS a form of censorship.”
“It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR,” Huckabee said.
‘Embarrassment to NPR’
Williams joined NPR in 2000 as host of the “Talk of the Nation” show. He later became a senior correspondent. Last spring, he was put on contract with the title “news analyst,” according to the ombudsman Shepard, “to give him more latitude about what he says.”
Shepard said Williams is controversial among NPR listeners because of his long-standing contract with Fox News.
Last year, she noted, 378 listeners e-mailed her with “complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox.”
“The listener themes,” she said, “are similar: Williams ‘dishonors NPR.’ He’s an ‘embarrassment to NPR.’ ‘NPR should sever their relationship with him.’”
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