This started when O'Reilly asked Williams about "the Muslim dilemma" in the United States. O'Reilly said O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” Williams agreed and responded:
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.”
Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “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,” Mr. Williams said.
The context of the response is O'Reilly's reference to extremist Muslim jihad. He was not referring to peaceful Muslims living quietly as the rest of us do. It's all about the context.
Yet NPR saw an opportunity to get rid of Williams because he wasn't following the party line. I've disagreed with Williams on many issues; some of the things I've heard him say on Fox All Stars leave me agape, but I've never disputed his right to say them.
In February, Politico reported that NPR was receiving pressure from their listeners over correspondents Mara Liasson and Juan Williams appearing on Fox News. NPR disputed this story. Yet here we are.
If NPR wants to get rid of Williams because they want commentators all spewing the same "kumbaya" pablum rather than one who speaks the truth, challenges the issues, and expresses an honest opinion, then by all means cut Williams loose. But don't challenge Fox News that they aren't "fair and balanced" when you dismiss any semblance of balance and don't pretend you're doing it in the pious name of taking offense when your real purpose is there in plain view for us all to witness.
Afterthought: There may be more to the story, as there often is, and we should wait and see. It occurs to me that this might be like the "firing" of Marc Lamont Hill from Fox in October 2009 yet Hill continued to appear on many Fox programs as an analyst. Maybe that will be the case with Williams and NPR. Time will tell.
(More on Memeorandum)