Mere moments before he uttered the words that ended his long and distinguished career at National Public Radio, Juan Williams foretold his own demise:
"I think political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality."
Williams proceeded to address reality:
"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.”
That he spent the balance of the segment drawing important distinctions between Islam and its radical adherents was, evidently, immaterial to the powers-that-be at NPR. Williams had already committed the unpardonable sin of breaking liberal orthodoxy and dealing honestly with a controversial subject. Worse, did so on Fox News.
Many people have written, and will continue to write, far more eloquently about the implications of this disgraceful episode than I, but it's important to note that this kerfuffle says far more about NPR than it does about Juan Williams. (Disclosure: I have met Juan on several occasions and find him to be a kind, thoughtful, and serious person, even though we often disagree politically).
The truth is that NPR has been fishing for a pretext to terminate Williams for some time. In February of 2009, Williams -- again appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" -- had the temerity to offer unflattering analysis of Michelle Obama as a political liability. This set off a firestorm among (literally) dozens of the bien pensants who populate NPR's boardroom and listening audience. In a melodramatic column, the radio network's ombudsman -- excuse me, ombudswoman -- chided Williams for his tendency to "speak one way on NPR and another on Fox." As I wrote at the time, tailoring one's style to his intended audience is Media 101. The network ultimately directed Williams to drop all on-screen mentions of their precious brand name during future "O'Reilly" appearances.
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