NPR Fires Juan Williams After He Admits Getting ‘Nervous’ And ‘Worried’ About Muslims On Airplanes

Earlier this week, ThinkProgress reported that NPR’s Juan Williams, appearing on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, defended host Bill O’Reilly’s claim that “there’s no question there is a Muslim problem in the world.” O’Reilly was coming to his own defense, referring to comments he had made the previous week on ABC’s The View that “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” “I think you’re right,” Williams said, “political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.” Williams then said that he gets “nervous” and “worried” when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on airplanes.

Williams received considerable criticism after we first drew attention to his remarks. NPR announced last night that it has “terminated” Williams’ contract:

NPR News has terminated the contract of longtime news analyst Juan Williams after remarks he made on the Fox News Channel about Muslims. … Late Wednesday night, NPR issued a statement praising Williams as a valuable contributor but saying it had given him notice that it is severing his contract. “His remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR,” the statement read.

NPR reported that “Williams’ presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.” Indeed, last year, the organization asked that he no longer be identified as affiliated with NPR when appearing on the O’Reilly Factor.


ThinkProgress never called for Williams’ firing, and we are surprised by NPR’s move. However, NPR has every right to fire an employee whose public statements diminish NPR’s own reputation as a reliable source of news and level-headed analysis. Obviously, a news organization is under no obligation to employ a commentator who airs his own religious bias on national television.

At the same time, NPR’s decision advances the idea that there shouldn’t be a double standard. If media figures such as Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas are fired for insensitive remarks about non-Muslims, then the standard seems fair to apply when similar comments are said about Muslims. (Also, CNN fired Octavia Nasr for comments about a popular Muslim Lebanese leader which were deemed impolitic.)

“[I]t’s not surprising,” writes Michael Tomasky, “that after all these years of going on [Fox News’] air and drinking their green-room coffee, Williams should choose to ingratiate himself to O’Reilly and his viewers with that Foxy rhetoric. In a sense Williams got what was coming to him. Sleep with dogs, get fleas.” Yet, it appears that other media figures seem to be missing the point. “Watch how many people who cheered when Octavia-Nasr/Helen-Thomas/Rick-Sanchez were fired scream CENSORSHIP!! all day over Juan Williams,” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald tweeted this morning. And as if on queue, the entire Morning Joe crew on MSNBC expressed indignation at Williams’ firing this morning:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: This is disgraceful. NPR needs to hire Juan Williams back.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Something is wrong with what we do if we get fired for having a peaceful voice.

PAT BUCHANAN: That is preposterous! … It is not irrational to be nervous after 9/11 if you see some conspicuous Muslim fellas get in the first class section of a plane as I have!

Watch the segment:

Scarborough defended Williams, saying “he was setting it up to say, ‘Listen I understand people get nervous, sometimes I get nervous, but we’ve got to move past that. We can’t paint an entire faith with this.’” The full transcript of Williams’ exchange with O’Reilly is provided below.

O’REILLY: Hi. I’m Bill O’Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.

The Muslim dilemma — that is the subject of this evening’s talking points memo. So, in case you just got back from Easter Island, I, your humble correspondent, am causing trouble once again.

Today on “The View,” the ladies addressed the shootout I had with them last Thursday when I said that building a mosque near Ground Zero is inappropriate because Muslims killed us there. That caused Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk off the set.

Of course, what I said is absolutely true, but is insensitive to some. In a perfect world, you always say Muslim terrorists killed us, but at this point, I thought that was common knowledge. I guess I was wrong.

Anyway, the heated controversy continues and goes far beyond me and “The View” ladies. It has entered the fabric of America.

Barbara Walters said something interesting today. She said that the nation is very angry. Therefore, commentators must watch the rhetoric. OK.

But my question to Ms. Walters is this: Why is America so angry?

There are a number of answers to that question. One of them is that folks are fed up with politically correct nonsense. There is no question there is a Muslim problem in the world and if “The View” ladies will not acknowledge that, that’s their problem, because most Americans well understand the danger coming out of the Muslim world.

Ms. Walters went on to say that my statement about the Japanese attacking the USA in World War II is not a valid comparison.


WALTERS: I think that what Bill O’Reilly said was totally wrong. I also feel that on his program when he compared it to Germany and Japan, which he did, and said, well, you wouldn’t have been built monuments — countries, they were not religion.


O’REILLY: With all due respect to Barbara Walters, who has handled herself with dignity in this controversy, she is misguided.

American forces had to remove the Taliban government in Afghanistan because it supported the al Qaeda killers. The U.S. and many other countries are now desperately trying to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb because most everyone understands some crazy jihadists may use that bomb to ignite a holocaust. Right now the countries of Russia, China, the Philippines, many nations in Africa and Thailand are all fighting Muslim insurrections.

The Muslim threat to the world is not isolated. It’s huge! It involves nations and millions of people.

Yet, the left in America will not face that fact.

“Talking Points” has given President Obama has given a pass on his soft rhetoric towards the Muslim world, because he needs to get nations like Pakistan to cooperate with us. The president can’t afford tough rhetoric like the kind I’m giving you tonight. That is perfectly understandable.

In Germany, however, Chancellor Angela Merkel is getting tough. She told the world that attempts to build multi-cultural society in her country have, quote, “utterly failed.” Ms. Merkel has enormous problem with 5 million Muslims who are not assimilating into German society.

In France, the parliament there has outlawed burqas after that country endured rioting in Muslim areas that the police could not control.

Here in the USA, we are lucky. The vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens and deplore the extreme actions in the Muslim world. But they know there is a clash of civilizations in play.

Despite all that, Ms. Goldberg was deeply offended by my statement about 9/11. Here’s what she said this morning.


GOLDBERG: When you say Muslims are responsible for 9/11, does that mean Muhammad Ali? Because Muhammad Ali is a Muslim. Does that mean Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

To me, you need to be distinct when you say things like this because this is a volatile time. You cannot just throw stuff around like that in my opinion.


O’REILLY: Now, that statement is worth addressing. No sane individual thinks Muhammad Ali or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is responsible for 9/11.

But the reality is that most Americans are uneasy with the Muslim world in general because moderate Muslims have not stepped up in a visible way to help combat the jihadists. Look at all the problems we’re having with Pakistan. We’ve sent that country billions of dollars hoping to motivate them to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda.

If Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t think there’s a Muslim problem, she ought to ask President Obama about it.

The cold truth is that in the world today, jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, Israel and other countries are in grave danger.

So, I have had enough of the political correct nonsense and I condemn the far-left fanatics who label people with whom they disagree “bigots.” That’s what Joy Behar did again today, which is simply stunning because as Laura Ingraham pointed out last Friday, Ms. Behar’s anti- Christian analysis has been off the charts.

And then there is Rosie O’Donnell who used to host “The View.” Here’s what she said.


ROSIE O’DONNELL, ACTRESS: Bill O’Reilly, you know, what does he do besides incite kind of hatred? What does he do besides that?

JANETTE BARBER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: To stand there and say Muslims killed us, I hope you didn’t take that wrong. I didn’t mean anything bad about them. It’s like I hate it when they lie within the same sentence, at least take a break before you lie.

O’DONNELL: But it’s like that’s what Bill O’Reilly does. Why would you book him?


O’REILLY: Now, Ms. O’Donnell’s analysis reminded me of this —


O’DONNELL: Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state. We’re a democracy.


O’REILLY: Interesting. Nobody walked off the set of “The View” when Rosie O’Donnell said that. Did they?

As “Talking Points” stated on Friday, there is a reason behind the madness. Many in the Muslim world despise the United States because we are Israel’s biggest supporter. Any of the liberal precincts believe our support for Israel is wrong and that we have ignited Muslim anger. It is our fault that some Muslims hate us.

I don’t think the ladies on “The View” see it that way. But certainly, the far-left has held that opinion for quite some time.

Finally, wherever I went this weekend, people were high-fiving me. It was amazing. People yelling out windows, “O’Reilly, keep going,” that kind of stuff.

Are all these people bigots? Do they all hate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

That’s just nuts. This has nothing to do with theology and everything to do with politics. Americans are simply fed up with politicians and media people denying the obvious. There is a dangerous problem in the Muslim world and once again, I call for all peace-loving Muslims to join the United States and other conscientious nations to fight the jihadists to defeat radical Islam. And that’s the memo.

In a moment, Juan and Mary Katharine will tell me where I’m going wrong on all of this.

And later, how is the O’Reilly view Muslim controversy playing on talk radio? Right back with those reports.

O’REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story, danger from the Muslim world.

Joining us from Washington FOX analysts Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams.

So, Juan, I got to tell everybody, own up to this, that talking points memo was really written by Alan Colmes.

So, where am I going wrong there, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.

I mean, 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.

Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam. President Bush went to a mosque —

O’REILLY: Well, there isn’t any theology involved in this at all from my perspective, Juan. But you live in the liberal precincts. You actually work for NPR, OK?


O’REILLY: And it’s not about — it’s about politics as I said. But — my analysis is that this Israel thing and that liberals feel that United states is somehow guilty in the world, of exploitation and backing the wrong side, and it makes it easier for them to come up with this kind of crazy stuff that, well, you can’t really say the Muslims attacked us on 9/11.

WILLIAMS: No, but what Barbara Walters said to you —

O’REILLY: Were they Norwegians? I mean, come on.

WILLIAMS: Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don’t say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That’s crazy.

O’REILLY: But it’s not at that level. It doesn’t rise near to that level.

WILLIAMS: Correct. That’s — and when you said in the talking points memo a moment ago that there are good Muslims, I think that’s a point, you know?

O’REILLY: But everybody knows that, Juan. I mean, what are, in 3rd grade here or what?

WILLIAMS: No, you don’t — but you got to be — this is what Barbara Walters was saying —

O’REILLY: I got to be careful, you just said it. I got to be careful. I have got to qualify everything 50 times. You know what, Juan? I’m not doing it anymore. I’m not doing that anymore.

WILLIAMS: OK. So, be yourself. Take responsibility.

O’REILLY: But I’m not going to say, oh, it’s only a few. It’s only a tiny bit. It’s not, Juan. It’s whole nations, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, whole nations.

Go ahead, Mary Katharine. You want to get in here. Go.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all — first of all, the left only thinks that you should be careful with rhetoric in dangerous times when it’s a right winger using the rhetoric. When they’re doing it themselves, when it deals with other issues, they don’t care. So there’s a double standard there.

Second of all, there’s a distinction worth making between moderate and extremism Islam as you have made that point in the talking points, because frankly, as a conservative, if anybody who believes in the mission in Iraq where you are building up a society of moderate Muslims to push back on extremists, you have to believe in that distinction. So, I think that’s important to make.

But, this whole getting up and running off set because you don’t use the distinction in every single sentence you say, I think, was ridiculous and immature and they stopped the conversation, not you. It was them freaking out about a conservative position and leaving the stage to stop the conversation.

O’REILLY: All right. But, look, here’s the deal. Angela Merkel, all right, in the politically correct nation of Germany — Germany has gone from being a militaristic society to a politically correct society in a generation. OK?

Angela Merkel comes out today and says, “You know what? This is out of control in our country. We can’t control it anymore.”

So, if it’s only a few, and a couple and just in the mountains of Pakistan, that’s all, why is Angela Merkel having such a hard time? Why are the French banning burqas? You know why —


O’REILLY: Come on.

WILLIAMS: Because — they have a problem because people have stopped emphasizing and she went on to say, this integration assimilation.

O’REILLY: Why, Juan? Why?

WILLIAMS: — to live side by side. That was wrong-headed and because she sees it as a threat. I think that she pointed out that two of every three or so children under the age of 5 in Germany is Muslim.

O’REILLY: Juan, who is posing a problem in Germany? Is it the Muslims who have come there or the Germans?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

O’REILLY: Who’s causing the problem?

WILLIAMS: I think — I think — no, no, wait. See, you did it again. It’s extremists. It’s people who refuse to —

O’REILLY: It’s not extremists.

WILLIAMS: It’s a German society. They are the ones causing that problem.


O’REILLY: But, Juan, Merkel — according to Merkel, it’s not extremists. It’s most of the 5 million Muslims who have come there aren’t assimilating. That’s the problem.

HAM: And also what happens, Bill — Bill, also what happens is that when moderate Muslims want to assimilate or want to stand up, they run the risk of being blown up by their co-religionist who are extreme. So, that is — that’s a threat that moderate Christians and Jews don’t think.

O’REILLY: But that doesn’t happen in America where most Muslim- Americans have assimilated.

HAM: Because our society demands that people assimilate. That’s what we demand and that’s why it works here.

WILLIAMS: But, Bill, here’s a caution point. The other day in New York, some guy cuts a Muslim cabby’s neck and says he’s attacking him or you think about the protest at the mosque near Ground Zero —

HAM: That guy works at a liberal —

O’REILLY: Yes, he was a crackpot.


O’REILLY: Look, Americans are smart enough to know, Juan.

HAM: But I don’t think — the point is the rhetoric was not pushing him to do that.

WILLIAMS: I don’t know what is in that guy’s head. But I’m saying, we don’t want in America, people to have their rights violated to be attacked on the street because they heard a rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy. We’ve got to say to people as Bill was saying tonight, that guy is a nut.

O’REILLY: He is a nut. And I said that about the guy in Florida — who wanted to burn the Koran. I came town on him like crazy.

WILLIAMS: Correct. There you go.

O’REILLY: But I’ll tell you what — if there was going to be a backlash against Muslims, it would happened after 9/11. It didn’t happen in this country.

WILLIAMS: It didn’t happen in this country.

O’REILLY: It did not happen here. So, we are smart enough to understand who the good Muslims are and who the bad Muslims are. But to diminish the whole thing as the left wants to do, very dangerous. I have got to go, guys, as always.

WILLIAMS: That would be hypocrisy.

O’REILLY: All right. Thank you very much.