Thursday, October 21, 2010


NPR has fired Fox's Juan Williams -- and we're about to hear all kinds of whining and sniveling about "liberal fascism" and "chilling effects on free speech" from right-wing blogs and discussion boards that routinely ban liberal commenters, and from Fox itself, which operates as essentially an ideologically pure state-run news outlet for a right-wing counterrevolutionary regime that doesn't quite exist yet:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel....

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O'Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a "Muslim dilemma." Mr. O'Reilly said, "The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet."

Mr. Williams said...: "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." ...

Should this remark have gotten him fired? I'd say no -- but I say that only because it's not blatantly offensive enough for NPR to avoid the shitstorm of self-righteousness that;'s going to ensue, with talking points dictated by the right and recited word for word by media commentators and editorialists from the center.

I think NPR should have fired him with no proximate cause, just because he's on Fox -- and Mara Liasson, too. As Eric Boehlert wrote last year:

... Fox News [has] seemed to proudly obliterate any barrier between journalism and politics as it morphed into the de facto media engine driving conservative politics, invited fringe conspiracy theorists on air, declared itself the "voice of the opposition," and promoted violent political rhetoric....

Public broadcasting guidelines clearly state that when appearing on outside programs "journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist." And, "They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."

The NPR ethics code, written "to protect the credibility of NPR's programming by ensuring high standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and staff conduct," also forbids NPR journalists from participating in appearances that "may appear to endorse the agenda of a group or organization." Is there any independent viewer still watching Fox News today who thinks it does not endorse a political agenda? Its on-air hosts help raise money for GOP PACs, for crying out loud.

Fox is a partisan news organization, root and branch. If NPR has a standard like this (and Boehlert goes on to explain the nuances of how this extends to freelancers and contributors), then no Fox regular should ever appear on NPR. So Liasson has to go, too.


Boehlert speculated on a different solution to NPR's Fox problem, but he noted the risks:

...if they forbid Liasson and Williams from regularly appearing on Fox News, NPR would have to deal with the wrath of the right-wing noise machine and right-wing foot soldiers who would no doubt descend (electronically and perhaps even physically) on NPR and raise holy hell. And let's face it, that's not a pleasant scenario to contemplate, especially when the previous Republican administration launched a federal crusade to rid public broadcasting of its alleged liberal bias; a crusade that came with it the implicit threat of funding cuts.

Oh, those funds are gone now -- if not in the next two years, then in 2013, during the Palin or Barbour or Christie presidency.

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