There is a lot of controversy over the firing of radio newsman Juan Williams by National Public Radio the other day. According to NPR, Williams was fired because he made a statement on The O’Reilly Factor the other night saying he sometimes feels worry and fear when he sees a Muslim dressed in typical Islamic garb on an airplane. NPR said statements like this do not coincide with NPR’s editorial policies and they terminated Williams’ contract.
Juan Williams is a fairly liberal news personality. He has worked for NPR for ten years and has been a regular analyst on various FOX News shows for several years as well. He normally expresses views in favor of liberal progressives and supports most of the things they stand for. The incident in question involved his statement about his own personal feelings and was followed up by his insistence that he’s not alone in these feelings and it needs to change nationwide. Williams has a long history of supporting and working for civil rights and is not considered a bigot by most people, including most Muslims who know anything about him.
I believe NPR fired Mr. Williams for one of two reasons or a combination of the two reasons. The first reason, the one they stated, was because of his personal opinion that he expressed on The O’Reilly Factor about a somewhat irrational (but not completely) fear of seeing people in Muslim garb on an airplane. Mr. Williams was not being disrespectful and, as I said, went on to say that many people feel this way, it was wrong and we needed to find a way to change it. Apparently, if you are employed by NPR, you are not allowed to express your personal feelings in a public forum, while on your own time, for fear of your employment being terminated. This seems not only irrational to me but possibly even illegal.
The second reason I can see is that Juan Williams is a frequent guest on FOX News and NPR detests FOX News and everything they stand for. Being a non-liberal news organization (that is often vilified by the President himself in his childish manner) FOX is often the target of the other “news” organizations who broadcast only left-leaning news items and who openly back President Obama and the Democrats. Since NPR gets its funding from the government, it is only fitting that they should defend the President and their money source, except they lean to the left even when a Republican is in office. NPR was already unhappy that Juan Williams appears on FOX News Channel but they used this incident of him saying something that disagrees with their liberal policies and beliefs to finally get rid of him.
Again, it seems to me it would be illegal for a company to fire someone simply for expressing their own personal feelings in a public forum, on their own time, that were not directed at the company itself. If Williams had said something derogatory about NPR I could possibly see his termination being justified, although retaliatory. But he was on his own time as a guest of a TV show speaking his mind. Apparently you’re not allowed to express your true thoughts if you are employed by NPR, whether you’re on company time or your own.
So if you work for NPR and you can’t express your true thoughts, even on your own time, how can one believe NPR to be putting out truthful information? If, as NPR says, Williams was fired for honestly stating his fears in contrast to their editorial views, then NPR basically fired him for honesty. Hmmm. That seems a bit odd for a news organization, doesn’t it? Or is it just me?