Fired by NPR, Hired by Fox News By Nikki Broderick’14 Staff Writer
On Oct. 20, National Public Radio fired Juan Williams after he commented on The O’Reilly Factor that “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.” But that’s not all Juan Williams said. He also warned viewers not to generalize stereotypes and that demonizing an entire religion or group of people because of its extremists and that the small minority should not influence public policy. NPR, who has employed Williams for 10 years, immediately fired him over a telephone call. The very next day, Fox News reportedly offered Williams a three-year, $2 million dollar contract.
NPR stated that it fired Juan Williams because he crossed the line between a news analyst and a political commentator, and because his comments were “inconsistent with [NPR’s] editorial standards and practices.” Which leaves one wondering: would Williams have been fired if he had made his comments on a network other than Fox News, one whose image so greatly contradicts National Public Radio’s?
NPR claims to serve the entire country and its political views, but has a certain liberal air associated with it. Fox News, owned by Republican billionaire Rupert Murdoch, has a history of hiring commentators and analysts based on their popularity at the moment: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Christine O’Donnell, for example. Fox News has right-wing bias—Murdoch recently donated $1 million to the Republican Party. Had Williams made his comment on a news network that wasn’t so publicly associated as conservative, his opinion might not have warranted so much attention. But because he spoke about such a hot issue on Fox News, everyone noticed. NPR’s instant firing and comment that he needs to see a psychiatrist probably didn’t help either.
The hiring of Juan Williams has now boosted Fox News’ image by hiring a liberal voice. NPR and other news networks don’t realize what happens when they bring Fox News back into the conversation. Every time another news network criticizes Fox News, guess what happens? Ratings boost, and more people start to watch.
But what about NPR’s other reason for firing Juan Williams? The line between analyst and commentator is very thin, and easy to cross if switching back and forth between analyzing on NPR and asked to make appearances on Fox News, although it had been something he had been doing successfully for some time. Apparently, this instance gave NPR a reason to fire him. I’m not saying that NPR handled the situation as well as it could have. After working with NPR for 10 years, Williams deserved more than a phone call regarding his termination.
But Williams should have drawn the line. If his message was to not stereotype and encourage religious tolerance, why did he mention that he gets nervous around those dressed in “Muslim garb”? Williams, and other news commentators, need to recognize that giving their sometimes controversial opinions along with a good message distracts views and only allows them to focus on the sensational. If someone really wants to give their opinion, they should be a commentator, not an analyst.