I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. 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. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.
NPR’s CEO even went so far as to say that William should have kept his feelings between himself and his psychiatrist.
She later walked back her remark, and tried to claim that it wasn’t Williams’s remark on passengers in Muslim garb that got him fired. Instead, she said:
News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview — not our reporters and analysts.
Oh please. I’ll use the same example as everyone else is using this morning: NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who isn’t even a news analyst, but (laughably) a straight reporter:
I think [Jesse Helms] ought to be worried about what’s going on in the Good Lord’s mind, because if there is retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.
That’s just one (albeit the worst) of many “personal public positions” that Totenberg has taken on controversial issues. But those remarks are apparently in keeping with NPR’s standards.
Finally, Matt Welch has the most insightful comment on the incident:
Williams’ firing is a clarifying moment in media mores. You can be Islamophobic, in the form of refusing to run the most innocuous imaginable political cartoons out of a broad-brush fear of Muslims, but you can’t admit it, even when the fear is expressed as a personal feeling and not a group description, winnowed down to the very specific and nightmare-exhuming act of riding on an airplane, and uttered in a context of otherwise repudiating collective guilt and overbroad fearmongering.
UPDATE: NPR is in for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. NPR’s ombudsman defends the firing, writing:
I can only imagine how Williams, who has chronicled and championed the Civil Rights movement, would have reacted if another prominent journalist had said:
“But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see an African American male in Dashiki with a big Afro, I get worried. I get nervous.”
Right, because we have so many incidents of Dashiki-clad black men flying airplanes into buildings. Sometimes the old rewrite-the-piece-with-different-nouns trick just doesn’t make sense.
There’s no word yet from the ombudsman on why Nina Totenberg’s Jesse-Helms’s-grandchildren-should-get-AIDS remark met NPR’s “journalistic standards”.
UPDATE: Power Line has been looking at other people who have been blacklisted by NPR: Steven Emerson (investigative journalist and an expert on Islamist terrorism since before 9/11), and Katherine Kersten (columnist with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). I expect many more names on the list will be revealed before this story is over.
UPDATE: Michael Barone comments on the minds that are open, and those that are closed:
Reading between the lines of Juan’s statement and those of NPR officials, it’s apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.