A Farewell to Juan
It seems everyone has something to say about National Public Radio terminating analyst Juan Williams's contract after his controversial remarks on Monday's O'Reilly Factor regarding Muslims on airplanes. The last topic to spark this much debate in the blogosphere was . . . well, Muslims (the whole mosque-near-ground-zero thing. Or the Marty Peretz debacle). You can get a sense of how Ian Buruma might react to the whole thing by reading his timely article on the defense of liberalism in the latest issue of The National Interest.
What Williams said was that he gets nervous when he sees "people in Muslim garb" on an airplane because they identify "themselves first and foremost as Muslims." For its part, NPR says his comments "undermined his credibility as a news analyst."
Jeffrey Goldberg disagrees both with Williams's statements and NPR's action. He finds a problem with the "Inquisition-like state of journalism" where anything "deemed offensive to Jews and Muslims in particular is considered immediate grounds for firing," which only provides "the extreme right . . . with another free speech martyr."
Steve Benen thinks "NPR has never seemed entirely comfortable with Juan Williams' propensity for nonsense when he appears on Fox News," but was surpised by the punishment because, while "reasonable people can agree his remarks were ugly and narrow-minded," similar sentiments are expressed "every day" on that particular network.
James Joyner says NPR is just trying to protect "its brand," although "it's rather clear that" the radio station "overreacted." Politics Daily's Matt Lewis writes that although "NPR had theright to fire" him, they were wrong to do it, and, "Clearly, having an honest discussion is fraught with danger."
Matt Yglesias is on NPR's side and "it seems clear" to him that "Williams has not, in fact, been doing valuable work all these years." Jeralyn at TalkLeft agrees. Glenn Greenwald is for equal application of speech-based terminations: with all the other journalists getting fired for incidents that incite the right (read: anti-Semitic remarks), he says, it's about time one of theirs got the axe. Andrew Sullivan also sees a double standard, since neither Williams nor O'Reilly got fired by FOX for their comments on Muslims. But Big Tent Democrat thinks Greenwald "misses the point."
And a number of bloggers have remarked on the "odd double game" Williams played by routinely "sounding like a liberal on NPR" and then appearing more conservative on FOX. Wonkette finds the incident "ironic." Ann Althouse, for one, thought he "did a great job" filling both roles "for as long as he did." And Stephen Green calls the firing "a shame." Steve Clemons is also disheartened by Williams's comments, which were "the kind of bigotry, softly deployed," that Juan had tried to "reverse" in the past. Jonathan Chait finds it "depressing."