Juan Williams -
Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate
August 01, 2011
Juan Williams is an
American journalist and political analyst for Fox News Channel. He was a
senior news analyst for National Public Radio (NPR) from 1999 until
October 2010. At The Washington Post for 23 years, Williams has worked
as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist, White House correspondent and
Williams is the author of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights
Years, 1954-1965 (1988), a companion to the documentary series of the
same name about the African-American Civil Rights Movement; Thurgood
Marshall: American Revolutionary (2000), a biography of Thurgood
Marshall, the first black American to serve on the Supreme Court of the
United States; and Enough (2006), which was inspired by Bill Cosby's
speech at the NAACP gala, and deals with Williams' critique of black
leaders in America, and as he puts it the "culture of failure." Williams
has received an Emmy Award and critical praise for his television
documentary work and he has won several awards for investigative
journalism and his opinion columns.
In his new book, Muzzled: The Assault
on Honest Debate, he writes about his controversial comments about
Muslims in 2010, which resulted in him being fired from his job at
National Public Radio. He also wrote about his feelings regarding the
effects of political correctness on policy debate.
Williams joined NPR in 2000 as host
of the daily afternoon talk show Talk of the Nation. He then served as
senior national correspondent for NPR, interviewing newsmakers as well
as providing analysis of major events in interviews with the anchors for
the newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend
Edition Saturday and Sunday. As a result of Williams'
commentary on the Fox News Channel, NPR's President and CEO Vivian
Schiller requested that Fox stop identifying him as an NPR host in 2009.
NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard maintained that: "Williams tends to speak
one way on NPR and another on Fox." Williams' comment on January 26,
2009, to Bill O’Reilly and Mary Katharine Ham, while appearing on Fox
News' O'Reilly Factor, triggered the move.
NPR terminated his contract on
Wednesday, October 20, 2010, two days after he made remarks on The
O'Reilly Factor. He had commented, "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." According to NPR, the remarks were "inconsistent with our
editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a
news analyst with NPR." As to the reason for the termination of
Williams' contract, NPR’s President and CEO Vivian Schiller offered the
following comment: "News analysts may not take personal public positions
on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as
analysts..." On October 21, 2010, Schiller told an audience at the
Atlanta Press Club that Williams' feelings about Muslims should be
between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist—take your pick."
Schiller later apologized stating, "I spoke hastily and I apologize to
Juan and others for my thoughtless remark."
Some observers have questioned whether NPR actually fired Williams for
making the comments on Fox News, as opposed to making them in another
forum. William Saletan of Slate.com compared the Williams situation to
that of Shirley Sherrod, saying that both Sherrod and Williams had their
words taken out of context in a way that made them appear racist and led
to the loss of their jobs, except that Williams was victimized by
liberals, rather than conservatives as in Sherrod's case. Saletan said
that while Williams' confessed fears of Muslims were "unsettling", the
context was Williams' argument that such fears should not be used to
curtail the rights of Muslims or anyone else, and that Williams
consistently argued that Muslims in general should not be blamed for the
terrorist activities of Muslim extremists. NPR has been criticized
by Williams and others for practicing a double standard in the firing,
compared to their not firing Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg and other NPR
reporters and analysts for their opinionated statements.
On January 6, 2011, the same day NPR's Board concluded the investigation
of Williams' firing, NPR's senior vice-president, Ellen Weiss, who
according to Williams had fired him over the phone, resigned from her
post. Additionally, the NPR Board decided to cancel the 2010 bonus of
CEO Vivian Schiller for her poor handling of the Williams case.
Juan Williams commented: "It's good news for NPR if they can get someone
who is the keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy out of NPR." "She
had an executioner's knife for anybody who didn't abide by her way of
thinking," he said. "And I think she represented a very ingrown,
incestuous culture in that institution that's not open to not only
different ways of thinking, but angry at the fact that I would even talk
or be on Fox."
has been a Fox News Contributor since 1997. He has appeared on Special
Report with Bret Baier and FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also
regularly appears on The O'Reilly Factor and has served as a guest host
in O'Reilly's absence. After NPR announced his termination from their
network in October 2010, Fox News offered him a new $2 million (a
"considerable" raise, three-year contract and an expanded role at their
network that includes a regular guest-host role Friday nights on The
Following his firing from NPR, Williams appeared on The O'Reilly Factor
and discussed his thoughts on how his role at Fox played into NPR's
decision: "I don't fit in their box. I'm not predictable black liberal.
You [O'Reilly] were exactly right when you said you know what this comes
down to. They were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I'm
appearing on Fox News. They don't want me talking to you."