Juan Williams

Juan Williams was fired by NPR because of a controversial discussion he had with Bill O’Reilly over O’Reilly’s comment that “Muslims killed us on 9/11”.

Here’s the controversial part:

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 kinds of books that I have written about the civil rights movement in this country.  But when I get on a plane, I gotta tell you if I see people who are in Muslims garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now I remember also that when that Times Square bomber was in court, I think this was just last week he said, “The war with Muslims, Americas war with Muslims is just beginning – first drop of blood.” I don’t think that there’s anyway to get away from these facts. But I think there are people that want to somehow remind us all, as President Bush did on 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam.

People are pissed that Williams was fired for “telling the truth.”  I think once a journalist has said that Muslims (or at least, people he thinks are Muslims based on their “garb”) on planes make him nervous and worried, it makes sense that he needs to leave the news organization.  How could he report ever again on Muslims without the listener remembering how nervous they make him?

But this was the first thing Williams said in a 6-minute 3-way discussion.  It’s what he said after that in defense of separating “moderate Muslims” from “extreme Muslims” that has (some) people upset about his firing.  Here is blogger/author Tim Wise’s response:

For those not up on the story, its contours are simple enough: On Monday, Williams appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show to discuss the previous week’s flap on The View, where O’Reilly had bellowed that “The Muslims killed on us 9/11″ as justification for opposing the building of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” During their conversation about Bill’s outburst — which had prompted hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg to walk off stage — Williams admitted to O’Reilly that he is often nervous on planes if he sees persons who are identifiably Muslim. Although he went on to caution O’Reilly, and presumably those watching, about ascribing to all Muslims the terrorist tendencies of an infinitesimally small few — so, in other words, he wasn’t endorsing the fear to which he himself sometimes falls prey, but rather merely noting it honestly — the full context of his comments mattered not to the folks at NPR. On Wednesday they fired him, explaining that statements such as those he had offered on O’Reilly were ”inconsistent” with their “editorial standards and practices.”

After reading this, I had to pause.  I hadn’t heard the whole story nor read the transcript or seen the video.  So maybe Wise is right.

I went in search of a transcript and couldn’t find one.  So, I watched the video and took a transcript.  It’s after the jump.  Feel free to read it yourselves.  Here are the relevant passages (I think):

Because if you said that 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’d be crazy. […]

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. […]

I don’t know what’s 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 if they hear rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy.  We’ve got to say to people, “That guy’s a nut.”

Of course, IT MATTERS that he just said what he said about Muslims on planes.  In a super generalizing way.  That he thinks that people who identify themselves (via their clothes) are choosing to be Muslim over being American (and therefore, non-threatening, I guess).  Also, later on, he says that he thinks that the anti-Muslim issues that Germany has to deal with comes from those pesky extremist Muslims who won’t assimilate into German culture well enough to please the everyday Germans.

So, is it enough that he ALSO goes on to try to say that we can’t generalize, that there are “good Muslims” (my god, I can’t believe this is the conversation), and that rhetoric has power?  I don’t think so.

From Womanist Musings, who wrote about this BEFORE Williams was fired:

And Juan isn’t a bigot, so we should take his commentary seriously.  The idea that Muslim and American are two mutually exclusive identities is patently untrue. Islam does not stop at the borders of the United States.  There are people practicing Islam in each and every state, because Muslims are Americans.  The creation of Muslims as foreigners is specifically to “other” them and support the idea that they are a threat to the American way of life. So much for the melting pot and freedom of religion I suppose.

And at ThinkProgress, which also has a transcript:

The only way Williams could have been taken out of context would be if he had said his feeling of fear when seeing Muslims on an airplane is wrong. But he did not say that in his original segment with Bill O’Reilly.

From Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic:

What if someone said that they saw a black man walking down the street in classic thug get-up. Would a white person be a bigot of he assumed he was going to mug him? What percentage of traditionally garbed Muslims – I assume wearing a covered veil or some other indicator and being of darker skin – have committed acts of terror? And, of course, the 9/11 mass-murderers were in everyday attire, to blend in. So was the Christmas Day undie-bomber. The Fort Hood murderer was in US military uniform, for Pete’s sake.

The literal defense of anti-Muslim bigotry on Fox is becoming endemic. It’s disgusting.

That’s all.  Transcript after the jump (with Williams’ comments in bold).

OR: Our lead story, Danger from the Muslim world.  Joining us from Washington, Fox News analysts, Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams.  So, Juan, I got to tell everybody, I got to own up to this, that Talking Points Memo, that was really written by Alan Colmes.  So, where am I going wrong there, Juan?

JW: Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going but I think you are right.  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 kinds of books that I have written about the civil rights movement in this country.  But when I get on a plane, I gotta tell you if I see people who are in Muslims garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.  Now I remember also that when that Times Square bomber was in court, I think this was just last week he said, “The war with Muslims, Americas war with Muslims is just beginning – first drop of blood.” I don’t think that there’s anyway to get away from these facts.  But I think there are people that want to somehow remind us all, as President Bush did on 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam.  President Bush went to a mosque…

O’Reilly: There’s no theology involved in this at all from my perspective, Juan.  But you live in the liberal precincts, you actually work for NPR.  Okay.

JW: Yes.

OR: It’s not about th-, it’s about politics as I said but wh-, my analysis is that this Israel thing and that liberals feel that the United States is somehow guilty in the world of exploitation, backing the wrong side, it makes it easier for them to come up with this kind of crazy stuff that, [impersonating a liberal] “Well, you can’t really say that the Muslims attacked us on 9/11” –

JW: No, but what Barbra Walters said to you-

OR: Were they Norwegians? Come on.

JW: But what wait a second though.  Wait, wait.  Hold on.  Because if you said that 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’d be crazy.

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

JW: 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.

OR: But everyone knows that, Juan.

JW: No, no.

OR: What are we in third grade here?

JW: No, you don’t.  But you’ve got to be care- This is what Barbra Walters was saying that you’ve got to be careful.

OR [talking over JW]: I got to be careful.  You just said [exaggerating] I got to be careful.  I have to qualify everything 50 times.  You know what, Juan? I’m not doing that anymore.

JW: Okay.

OR: I’m not doing it anymore.

OR: [over JW] I will say.  I will say, Muslim Terrorists.

JW: Then be yourself, Bill. Take responsibility.

OR: 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 [Ham].

MKH: First of all.  First of all, the left only thinks you should be careful with rhetoric in dangerous times when it’s a right-winger using the rhetoric.  When they are doing it themselves, when it deals with other issues they don’t care.  So, there’s a double standard there.  Second, there’s a distinction worth making between moderate and extreme Islam.  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 is 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 –

OR:  But look.  Here’s the deal.  Angela Merkel, alright, 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 there are 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.  Come on.

JW: Let me say something.  Because, because they have a problem because people have stopped emphasizing – and she went on to say this – integration and assimilation-

OR: Why, Juan?

JW: So that you can just live side by side.

OR: Why?

JW: That was wrongheaded.  And because she sees it as a threat, I think she pointed out that 2 of every 3 or so children under the age of 5 in Germany-

OR: [interrupting] Who is causing the problem in Germany?  Is it the Muslims who have come there or the Germans?

JW: Absolutely.  No, no, no wait.  See, you did it again.  It’s extremists, people who refuse to integrate into-

OR: It’s not extremists.

JW: German society.  They are the ones causing that problem.

MKH tries to interject but is cut off by OR.

OR: According to Merkel, it’s not extremists.

JW: It is.

OR: It’s most of the 5 million Muslims who have come there aren’t assimilating.  That’s the problem.

JW: That’s a problem.

MKH: Also, what happens.  Bill, Bill.  Also, what happens is that when moderate Muslims want to assimilate or want to stand up, they risk being blown up by their co-religionists who are extreme.  So that is a threat that moderate Christians and moderate Jews don’t face.

OR: That hasn’t happened in America, where most Muslim-Americans has assimilated-

MKH: No, obviously, because our society demands that people assimilate. That’s what we demand and that is why it works here.

JW: But Bill, here’s the caution point.  The other day in New York, some guys cuts a Muslim cabbie’s neck and says he’s attacking him, or you think about the protest of the mosque near Ground Zero-

MKH: That guy worked at a liberal [muffled], I mean-

OR: That guy was a crackpot.

OR: Americans are smart enough to know, Juan.

MKH: But I don’t think the rhetoric was pushing him to do that.

JW: I don’t know what’s 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 if they hear rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy.  We’ve got to say to people-

OR: Oh, come on.

MKH: That guy wasn’t- [rolls her eyes]

JW: “That guy’s a nut.”

OR: That guy was a nut and I said that about the guy in Florida who wanted to burn the Koran, I wanted to come down on him like crazy.

JW: Right, there you go.

OR: But I’ll tell you what.  If there was going to be a backlash against Muslims, it would have happened after 9/11.  Didn’t happen in this country.

JW: Didn’t happen in this country.

OR: Didn’t happen here.  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 got to guys.

JW: That would be hypocrisy.

OR: Thank you very much.

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3 thoughts on “Juan Williams

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Juan Williams « Speaker's Corner -- Topsy.com

  2. pretty torn about this one. i can appreciate his honesty but at what cost. islamophobia is real. and comments like juan’s don’t help the situation.

    as a woman of color, i thought of the “black thugged out male” being viewed by most as having a criminal intent when walking down the street, in your neighborhood, or at the counter behind you in a convenience store.

    juan has fed into the same stereotyping that has probably resulting in him getting a few “suspect” looks!

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