Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams == Shirley Sherrod?

Radley Balko, William Salatan and Matt Welch are arguing that NPR’s firing of Juan Williams over his Muslim comments bears some resemblance to the Shirley Sherrod debacle.  Here’s what Williams said:

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. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

That’s not very defensible—it’s pretty much he definition of prejudice.  The 9/11 terrorists, after all, weren’t wearing Muslim garb.  And there’s no question that if he’d said the same about seeing people waring crucifixes, no one would be defending him at all.  But here is the elided part:

The damning video clip of Williams, like the damning clip of Sherrod, cuts off the speaker just as he’s about to reverse course. According to the full transcript, immediately after saying, “I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Williams continues: “But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam.” That continuation has been conveniently snipped from the excerpt.

A few seconds later, Williams challenges O’Reilly’s suggestion that “the Muslims attacked us on 9/11.” Williams points out how wrong it would be to generalize similarly about Christians:

Hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals—very obnoxious—you don’t say first and foremost, “We got a problem with Christians.” That’s crazy.

Williams reminds O’Reilly that “there are good Muslims.” A short while later, O’Reilly asks: “Juan, who is posing a problem in Germany? Is it the Muslims who have come there, or the Germans?” Williams refuses to play the group blame game. “See, you did it again,” he tells O’Reilly. “It’s extremists.”
Williams warns O’Reilly that televised statements about Muslims as a group can foment bigotry and violence. “The other day in New York, some guy cuts a Muslim cabby’s neck,” Williams reminds him. “Or you think about the protest at the mosque near Ground Zero … We don’t want, in America, people to have their rights violated, to be attacked on the street because they heard rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly.”

I’m not quite convinced that Williams got Sherroded.  He never really walks back his comments, but more covers them with statements about extremists—the equivalent of “I have many friends who are Muslim”.  But I am convinced that the full context of his remarks has been conveniently snipped to make him seem like a racist monster—possibly because he has committed the unpardonable sin of being a black man who works with Fox News.

As far as NPR goes, I think was simply the last straw with them.  They’ve had contentious relationships with Williams, who has a tendency to say controversial things.  They even demanded that Fox News refrain from referring to his employment with NPR.  They can fire him if they wish --- the Right to Free Speech does not protect you from the repercussions of exercising it, as Doctor Laura found out.  I don’t recall anyone complaining when Helen Thomas got her ass fired.

I’m sure Juan is crying all the way to the bank with the $2 million contract Fox News signed him to almost immediately.  The conservative calls to cut NPR’s funding over this are a bit overblown, in my opinion.  NPR has always has a left wing bias.  Why get worked up about it now?

Anyway, discuss.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 10/22/10 at 06:41 AM in The Press Machine  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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