NPR Analyst Juan WIlliams Fired Over Muslim Comments

NPR Analyst Juan WIlliams Fired Over Muslim Comments

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Longtime NPR news analyst Juan Williams has been fired following remarks made about Muslims on Fox News.

National Public Radio issued a statement late Wednesday saying Williams' contract as a senior news analyst was being terminated after his comments Monday on "The O'Reilly Factor."

Host Bill O'Reilly brought on guests to discuss his own appearance last week on ABC's "The View," during which cohosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in protest of O'Reilly's views on Muslims.

"Where am I going wrong here, Juan?" O'Reilly asked.

Williams, 56, who is a regular Fox commentator as well as one of NPR's most prominent African-American analysts, responded that too much political correctness can get in the way of 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," Williams said. "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 are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

But strong criticism followed the comments, as NPR reported.

Late Wednesday night, NPR issued a statement praising Williams as a valuable contributor but saying it had given him notice that it is severing his contract. "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," the statement read.

Williams' presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives, NPR reported.

His status was earlier shifted from staff correspondent to analyst after he took clear-cut positions about public policy on television and in newspaper opinion pieces, NPR reported.

Reached late Wednesday night, Williams told an NPR reporter that he wasn't ready to comment and was conferring with his wife about the episode.

Williams has been one of the best-known African-American journalists for nearly three decades, and has written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Atlantic Monthly. He spoke at the Smithsonian’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision which ended legal segregation in public schools and  has received honorary doctorates from Lafayette College, Wittenberg University, and Long Island University, among other institutions.

His books include This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience; Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It, and the companion book to the prize-winning PBS documentary "Eyes on the Prize," about the civil rights years.

The news of his firing prompted quick comment from Williams' Fox colleagues.

Former Arkansas governor and Fox talk show host Mike Huckabee's HuckPAC released a statement blasting NPR for violating Williams' First Amendment rights and called on Congress to defund the public radio organization, the Washington Post reported. 

"While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship," Huckabee's statement said, " 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."

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides some money to NPR, receives approximately 15 percent of its funds from the federal government.

Sarah Palin, also a Fox News contributor, weighed in on Twitter and also claimed Williams' First Amendment rights had been breached, the Post noted.

UPDATE: Fox News announced Thursday that it had signed Juan Williams to a new, multi-year contract, which the Los Angeles Times reported was worth $2 million. Williams will also now write columns for FoxNews.com, the first of which appeared on Thursday afternoon.

In the column, Williams lashed out at NPR for the decision to fire him. He said he dismissed for "telling the truth" aand called his debate with Bill O'Reilly an "honest, sensitive" one "in the best American tradition of a fair, full-throated and honest discourse about the issues of the day."

Williams called NPR's move to fire him "a chilling assault on free speech" that was prompted by "political correctness and ideological orthodoxy" by the "self-righteous ideological, left-wing leadership at NPR."