This morning, the media world was shocked to learn that Juan Williams was fired from National Public Radio (NPR) as a result of opinions he expressed last night on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. Williams has been a long-time contributor to Fox News, where he offers unabashed center-left commentary.
The controversy is hard to figure out. During the segment in question, Williams defended Muslims from being painted with broad strokes, even though he had also felt the personal twangs of fear when on an airline with a religiously-garbed Muslim post-9/11. Many Americans may identify with this honest introspective position. Juan Williams, author of numerous civil rights books, was preaching tolerance in the face of his own self-doubts.
This whitewashing of news is typical of liberal media professionals who fear that the mere reporting of facts or a debate of views may incite some sort of American violence against a particular group. Of course, this ignores that such movements rarely exist. If anything, America was a model of tolerance following 9/11 as the nation stood together denouncing stereotypes even as they shared Juan Williams’ personal twangs of fear while boarding airlines.
If you wanted to add politics to the equation, our nation seemed to be much more tolerant in the seven post-9/11 years under President Bush, than under the following two under President Obama. Why is that?
Under President Bush, we were often and repeatedly told that this was not a war against a religion but against those that corrupted their religion. Americans understood this, accepted it, and supported the war’s prosecution. Under President Obama, we are told that religion had nothing to do with the terrorism to begin with, there is no “Global War on Terror” and we should bend over backwards to appeal to those who use religion as vehicle for hate against us. Americans do not understand this, do not accept it, and still want terrorism to be prosecuted in an honest environment.
But back to NPR. Do they have the right to fire Juan Williams? Of course. Juan has a first amendment right to say what he feels, and NPR has a business right to fire any of their employees for actions they deem harmful to their reputation. But American taxpayers also have a right to demand better business practices from an organization they help fund through tax dollars. NPR receives 16 percent of its funding from tax dollars and has a responsibility to justify that expenditure to us.
NPR has built a reputation for espousing a liberal view that goes largely unchecked. While liberals bash Fox News for having a conservative bent, they are defensive of organizations such as the New York Times or NPR who provide the “mainstream” liberal dogma on a daily basis. NPR will defend itself by pointing out that its staff register as “independents” and that political affiliation is not a factor in their news reporting, but it is impossible to ignore the reality of their liberal point of view. If NPR wants to be a liberally bent news organization, that is their prerogative, but should taxpayers support this endeavor? No.
The push for political correctness over the past two years has reached a point that is threatening our civil discourse. This is especially noted when conservatives are called racist for opposing the president’s economic and domestic policies. It’s also seen in what isn’t reported, as much as what is.
This was demonstrated a few weeks ago when ABC’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour hosted a “town hall” on American’s fears of Islam. Amanpour responded to guest Anjem Choudary’s statement that “We do believe as Muslims the East and the West will one day be governed by the Sharia, indeed we believe that one day the flag of Islam will fly over the White House…the day of judgment will not come until a group of my oma [sic] conquer the White House” with an “OK.”
The obvious purpose of the town hall was to paint “fears” of Islam as irrational, spending a great deal of the hour chastising the Reverend Franklin Graham as intolerant. But when Amanpour’s guest, Mr. Choudary, threatened America and supported terrorism, the topic was changed and his comments went unchallenged, and unreported. Certainly, ABC would fire Amanpour for dismal ratings before her casual exchange with this man who glorified radical jihad and terrorism, but there wasn’t even a mainstream debate over this banter. But even without a national debate, Americans watching that program were smart enough to see Choudary as a man corrupting a religion rather than someone representing it.
It goes without question that Juan Williams is an honest analyst and reporter. We certainly don’t agree with him on many issues, but his discourse is civil and even handed. When he sees an opportunity to reach across the ideological spectrum to support an issue, he will, as he did with The Heritage Foundation when he narrated our documentary “Let Me Rise” on the topic of school choice and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships the Obama administration ripped out of the hands of inner-city students trying to get a better education. NPR should have embraced the ability for Juan Williams to reach across the aisle and hold these conversations, rather than once again prove that its desire is to promote a liberal narrative rather than a truthful debate.
Juan Williams is not the first and will not be the last journalist fired under the guise of political opportunity (will Mara Liasson be next?). But Williams’ firing will highlight the hypocrisy of a media outlet that tolerates hateful speech directed at conservatives (“Teab#*gers” anyone?) but shows no such tolerance for honest and thoughtful introspection, even when it comes from the left as in the case of Juan Williams. His firing will also highlight the funding that NPR receives, and hopefully cause legislators in the next Congress to consider whether that is a necessary use of our tax dollars. Are we truly without enough television and radio choices in America today that we must continue to prop up an entity such as NPR? Maybe we should thank NPR for opening this debate.