NPR and Right wing stupidity
Last week, Fox News kingpin Bill O'Reilly set off a firestorm on ABC's The View when he declared that " Muslims killed us on 9/11 " After apologizing on set, O'Reilly retreated to his safe zone at Fox News where he and his colleagues quickly defended O'Reilly's bigotry. On Monday, O'Reilly invited National Public Radio analyst and frequent Fox News contributor Juan Williams to counter his claim that "there is a Muslim problem in the world." Surprisingly, Williams told O'Reilly he was "right." Citing the "paralysis" of "political correctness," Williams admitted that when he "see[s] people who are in Muslim garb" on an airplane, "I get worried. I get nervous." Two days later, NPR fired him. Williams' statements and subsequent termination sparked wide-ranging reactions in the media over whether NPR's response was proportional or appropriate. Regardless of whether NPR should have fired Williams, it was certainly the outlet's right to do so. And given the firing of other media figures for controversial statements, NPR's decision advances the idea that there shouldn't be a double standard surrounding the treatment of Muslims by the media.
As Salon's Glenn Greenwald Tweeted yesterday, "watch how many people who cheered when [previous media figures] were fired scream CENSORSHIP!! all day over Juan Williams." Within right-wing circles, that number was large. Upon word of Williams' dismissal, a myriad of conservative pundits and lawmakers immediately lambasted NPR, calling for boycotts and the governmental defunding of NPR. While Fox News made sure Williams walked away with a $2 million contract, O'Reilly is determined to suspend public funding for the outlet, declaring, "it's over for NPR. " Appearing on the O'Reilly Factor yesterday, Williams stood by his original comments. Williams' original comments could have opened a constructive dialogue about entrenched Islamophobia, if handled in a more professional manner. However, as the American Prospect's Adam Serwer notes, "it's clear from the context that Williams wasn't merely confessing his own personal fears, he was reassuring O'Reilly that he was right to see all Muslims as potential terrorists." And, in standing by such statements without any clarification, Williams fails to address what the Washington Post's Greg Sargent notes as the central issue: Williams' original "instinctual feeling" is "irrational and ungrounded, and something folks need to battle against internally whenever it rears its ugly head."