Too Much Correctness?
Byline: Brett Zongker Associated Press
WASHINGTON "Im not a bigot," longtime news analyst Juan Williams said. Then he talked about getting nervous on a plane when he sees people in Muslim dress. Fair game for one of his employers, Fox News Channel, but a firable offense for the other, NPR.
Muslim groups were outraged, saying Williams remarks Monday on Foxs "The OReilly Factor" endorsed the idea all Muslims should be viewed with suspicion. But conservatives and even some liberals said NPR went too far in firing him for being honest about his feelings in an interview where he also said it is important to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists.
The opinions Williams expressed on Fox News over the years had already strained his relationship with NPR to the point the public radio network asked him to stop using the NPR name when he appeared on Bill OReillys show. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said Thursday that Williams had veered from journalistic ethics several times before Mondays comments.
Controversial opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts, Schiller said, adding Williams was not a commentator or columnist for NPR. She said whatever feelings Williams has about Muslims should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist take your pick."
In a memo to her staff and affiliate stations, Schiller said the comments violated NPRs code of ethics, which says journalists should not participate in media "that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."
Fox News, meanwhile, announced it had re-signed Williams to a multiyear deal that will give him an expanded role with the network and that Williams will host OReillys show today. Chairman Roger Ailes described Williams as "a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints" and "an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis. …