Juan Williams, in response to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, made an impolitic remark—well, stereotype. He said the comment was taken out of context. The facts: he said that while flying, if he sees a man wearing Muslim garb professing alliance to Islam first, he gets worried.
The firing of this freethinker, over a cell phone, after 10 years of service, has fired up both the right and the left in his defense. The Muslim group who complained seems to be alone in their condemnation. On NPR’s blog, more than 4,000 comments have been registered in defense of Juan and many of them threaten to cut off support and pledges. Will Juan’s firing affect the bottom line for NPR? Is this PC run amok?
This stereotype, now “stereohype,” by the media may have helped him get a newly-minted multimillion dollar contract from Fox. The Web fodder is that Juan had a target on his back for having the gall to wear a conservative tie on Sunday and skirt the ethics of his professional contract repeatedly.
Juan’s comment reminds me of one made by Jesse Jackson decades ago when he said that he would cross the street if he saw some black youths out late at night. He took a lot of heat for it. We know that journalists can harbor prejudice too. But Muslims come in all colors; the Nigerian underwear bomber was black and flying while dressed in American garb. Juan, would you have been nervous on that flight before that Muslim lit up his underwear?
I think Juan, with passion, spoke his mind. But if his contract with a left-leaning, public radio entity owns the right to squash opinion and bias while analyzing news, then Juan had it coming.