National Public Radio’s dismissal of Juan Williams is a powerful indictment of NPR’s practices and corporate culture. Small wonder voices are once again calling for the federal government to defund NPR—which gets 16% of its budget from taxpayers. The Heritage Foundation has long called for such defunding.
A veteran journalist, Williams is a liberal with whom I disagree more often than not. His integrity, his bravery, his refusal to be intimidated by peer pressure cannot be doubted, however. He has written thoughtful books on the civil rights movement and also dared speak to the African-American community about how dysfunctional family structures and devaluation of education and morality can produce and perpetuate crime and poverty. His commitment to improving opportunities for minorities even led him to agree to narrate a Heritage Foundation documentary on the demise of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.
He was fired on Wednesday night because of comments he made on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News. He told O’Reilly on Monday’s show how he feels when he’s on a plane:
I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.
But Williams was obviously saying one must get beyond one’s very reasonable fears, as he also said:
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.
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 rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy.
So how could NPR consider Williams’ comments a fireable offense?
Well, NPR has come under withering criticism from leftist flanks, such as Media Matters, for allowing a Fox News commentator to stay on its air. And in fact, it never sat well with NPR’s own staff that Williams appeared regularly on Fox News, as we can see from an Ombudsman report from Feb. 11, 2009.
Other NPR journalists are free to spew their liberal views on other cable networks without presenting a problem, however. Nina Totenberg certainly didn’t get fired when she said on air in 2003 about Gen. William Boykin “I hope he's not long for this world,” because he talked about a Christian crusade.
But then again, this is the same Totenberg who in 1995 had this horrific thing to say about Sen. Jesse Helms, “If there’s retributive justice, he’ll get AIDS from a transfusion or one of his grandchildren will get it.”
And Scott Simon also still has his job after saying of Mother Theresa, the day after she died:
"She accepted millions for her missions from the dictatorial Duvalier family in Haiti, and from convicted savings and loan executive Charles Keating in the United States.”
And, of course, the late Daniel Schorr enjoyed sainted status at NPR. Yet as George Will recently recalled:
On the eve of the convention that nominated Goldwater, Daniel Schorr of CBS, “reporting” from Germany, said:
“It looks as though Sen. Goldwater, if nominated, will be starting his campaign here in Bavaria, center of Germany’s right wing” and “Hitler’s one-time stomping ground.” Goldwater, said Schorr, would be vacationing near Hitler’s villa at Berchtesgaden. Schorr further noted that Goldwater had given an interview to Der Spiegel “appealing to right-wing elements in Germany” and had agreed to speak to a gathering of “right-wing Germans.” So, “there are signs that the American and German right wings are joining up.”
But as Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard has reported, although Goldwater had spoken vaguely about a European vacation (he did not take one), he had not mentioned Germany, and there were no plans to address any German group. Der Spiegel had reprinted an interview that had appeared elsewhere.
And this is the same NPR that hired Peter Overby from the very leftist group Common Cause to arbiter which Party sins the most in its funding. Overby has been doing overtime lately carrying the White House’s water on a funding “scandal” most other news outlets have declared hogwash.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This is NPR. And you help pay for it.
NPR is currently in the middle of its “pledge week,” during which they ask their audience for money. It is a business model that was recently praised by none other than Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who said this month, “I have a feeling that membership models and philanthropy models will be stronger than advertising-supported models.” I agree. All the more reason for conservative Americans to no longer be asked to fund coverage they find slanted.
Mr. Gonzalez, a former journalist, is vice president of communications at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in FOX News