Here's Juan Williams' column ripping NPR for firing him over comments he made on Bill O'Reilly's show about Muslims. Note an Arkansas angle. His long-running tension with NPR bosses included unhappiness when he — and no other NPR reporters — was offered an interview with President George Bush on the 50th anniversary of the Central High crisis.
I think NPR has been spoiling to rid itself of Williams. But, brother, did it soil its messkit. It handed its enemies NPR's head on a platter. The irony to me is that NPR (and local affiliates) have bent over backward to mollify right-wing critics with Fox Newsers like Williams and Liasson and reluctance to include obvious liberal points of view on many stories. Its recent edict that employees could not attend the Jon Stewart mock rally in Washington is a pretty good illustration of its kneejerk cowardice regarding the Right.
I'm not sure it was good judgment for Williams to air publicly the honest sentiment he expressed. It is a rare person who doesn't harbor some instinctive prejudices. The better among us recognize these feelings as irrational and try hard to overcome them, or at least mute them. These thoughts — even in a nuanced discussion placed in proper context — are probably best avoided in a national TV broadcast because they can be hurtful to the objects of such fears and easily misinterpreted. But a firing offense? What a gift to the wingers. Says Williams:
And now they have used an honest statement of feeling as the basis for a charge of bigotry to create a basis for firing me. Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.