Monday, October 25, 2010

Did NPR prove its intolerance by firing Juan Williams?

Michael Barone, the Washington Examiner's senior political analyst, said it all in the title of his Friday op-ed: NPR's intolerant firing of Juan Williams.

On Wednesday National Public Radio (NPR) proved their intolerance by turning on one of their own when they fired Juan Williams for comments made on Fox News' "The Factor" with Bill O'Reilly. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) called the firing "overreaching political correctness."

NPR is that bastion of liberal thinking subsidized by taxpayer money, not just those who listen. Many Americans have complained for years about their tax money buoying public radio in a free market system. Some are now calling for NPR to be defunded.

Juan Williams landed on his feet in record time after this dust-up. Fox News Channel's president Roger Ailes wasted no time in hiring him, offering a three-year contract and a salary increase.

NPR, however, is suffering serious PR issues in the wake of this unfortunate situation that was handled in a less-than-diplomatic way followed by CEO Vivian Schiller publicly suggesting Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist."

The Weekly Standard suggested it was a bogus firing for a bogus reason. When a highly visible 10-year employee is not even given the courtesy of sitting down with the bosses to discuss an issue important enough to result in termination, the employer often suffers the consequences. This is no exception.

Juan Williams has come out swinging against NPR, speaking at many media appearances since being fired, and Friday night saw him hosting the Fox News Bill O'Reilly show where he had a platform to further question NPR's decision during the Factor's trademark "talking points" segment. His surprising opinion was that NPR had no use for diversity, something many already suspected.

NPR is also being accused of hypocrisy because of its knee-jerk dismissal of Williams while tolerating comments from other employees that many considered to be far worse. J.P. Freire, the Washington Examiner's associate commentary editor, wondered about NPR's Nina Totenberg's 1995 comment seeming to wish for North Carolina's then-Senator Jesse Helms or his grandchildren to get AIDS. She still works at NPR.

Mr. Barone points out the hypocrisy:
An interesting contrast: while many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.
Tell me again who has the big tent?

Even Democratic political analyst Susan Estrich was incredulous of NPR's decision, saying Williams was no bigot and adding, "Juan and I have been contributors to Fox News for more than a decade. We're part of the 'balance' in 'fair and balanced.' "

I'm sure there will be times in the future as there have been in the past when I won't agree with Juan Williams' left-of-center opinions but isn't that what debate and a two-way dialogue is all about? Fox News, by offering both sides of an issue, continues to attract viewers and to grow its ratings. Juan Williams' firing has turned into a win-win for both him and Fox.

Other voices on this subject:
- Brit Hume "Excoriates NPR's 'Howling Double Standard' and Intolerance for a 'Bill Cosby Liberal' " 
- Charles Krauthammer Directly Challenges Totenberg on NPR's 'Hypocrisy' in Firing Juan Williams While Letting Her Opine Freely

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