Juan Williams, a longtime correspondent at both Fox News and NPR, was fired from NPR this morning:
On the Fox News Channel Thursday morning, Juan Williams objected to NPR’s decision to fire him and stood by his statements earlier in the week about Muslims.
Mr. Williams said he was being honest when he said on “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night that he worries when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. “I have a moment of anxiety or fear given what happened on 9/11,” he said in an interview on Fox News, where he is employed as a paid contributor.
Mr. Williams was a senior news analyst for NPR. He expressed dismay about the haste with which NPR made the decision to terminate his contract. He said he was told of the decision in a phone call Wednesday afternoon with Ellen Weiss, a senior vice president at NPR. According to Mr. Williams, Ms. Weiss said that the comments about Muslims “crossed the line.”
These kinds of situations fall into a gray area between right and wrong. I do agree with Yglesias that single instances like this aren’t sufficient reason to sack somebody. Yes, Williams’ statement was unprofessional and perhaps even bigoted, but these things must be evaluated against the background of a person’s whole body of work. Folks like Shirley Sherrod and Rick Sanchez have almost certainly suffered from a lack of this kind of consideration.
So has Juan Williams done enough good work to cancel out the negative effects of this statement? Honestly, I’m not familiar enough with his work to answer that question. What I do think, though, is that his firing is yet another sign of the radicalization of American political discourse. There’s less and less tolerance for statements that fall in the middle of the political spectrum or cross ideological lines, and we’re seeing the fallout from this kind of mentality on both the right and the left.