Opinion

Juan Williams’ NPR firing is bigger than him

America, we have a problem.  The problem is plain and simple: political correctness and “gotcha” journalism run amok.

My friend, longtime Washington Post reporter, award-winning author of the civil rights chronology “Eyes on the Prize” and NPR analyst Juan Williams is the latest victim of his own words.  Williams, who is also a Fox News contributor, shared his views on The O’Reilly Factor on Monday evening, where he discussed in context why we must get past our natural fears when dealing with people who may be different than us, or who don’t share our worldview.

I agree with that sentiment, don’t you?

Williams then went on to give an example of his own fears when travelling on airplanes. He said, “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.”

I agree 100% with this statement also, don’t you?

I also get nervous when I am in Washington, D.C., at night in a not-so-great part of town and I see a pack of young black males approaching me with their pants hanging down, their hats spun around, and their hands in their pockets.  And I am a black woman.  My point is that we all have fears and biases.  Reasonable or not, they are real and we need to be able to be honest about those fears.  That is the essence of America — that is all Juan did.  He shared with all of us that he too has fears, but that he cannot let those fears govern how he treats people.

I agree with that statement, don’t you?

So, I guess the question becomes, why did NPR really fire Juan Williams, since we all agree (even Whoopi Goldberg says NPR was wrong to fire Williams) that it was baseless.  In the last 24 hours, tons of articles and stories have been posted about Juan’s abrupt firing from NPR and the reasons why, but all of that is speculation.  The truth is that I fear NPR has been co-opted into a political morass that pits George Soros against the Fox News network.  And that is most unfortunate.

In my opinion, NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, should be fired for the inappropriate and defamatory comments she made about Williams.  Schiller decided to tell the world that Williams’ thoughts “should be kept between him and his psychiatrist.”  Talk about crossing the line.  All you have to do is look at what we in the legal profession call “similarly situated” persons at NPR to see that Juan has been singled out unfairly for his so-called “violation of NPR journalistic standards.”  Look at the words of Nina Totenberg, another NPR analyst.  She once said that the late Jesse Helms would face God’s judgment and that maybe his grandchildren would get AIDS.  She also popped off about President George W. Bush, saying that she hoped he would not have “much time” on this side of things.  Totenberg’s comments, interestingly, were not viewed as crossing the journalistic ethics line.

I will leave you with this, my fellow Americans: last month it was CNN’s Rick Sanchez who got the ax for saying that CNN’s leadership was run by “Jewish people” — rumor has it that NPR’s Mira Liasson may also be a Soros target because she is a Fox analyst.

If this is true, one has to wonder, who among our fellow journalists and fellow citizens will be next?

Sophia A. Nelson is a noted national media commentator and opinion writer for many outlets including The Washington Post, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NPR, Essence & BET.