I suspect NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for a long time and decided this would do. It will, I think, backfire big time on NPR, which is in the middle of one of its periodic, unendurable begathons to raise money. The comments, even on NPR’s own websites and Facebook page, are overwhelmingly negative, and many make the connection: “This morning, as I listened to pleas for funding support, I made a mental note to write a check and send it in to NPR. This afternoon, I changed my mind.”
NPR states that Williams was fired because what he said on The O’Reilly Factor was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” OK. But then these comments that Nina Totenberg made 15 years ago about the late Jesse Helms must have been consistent with them, because she still works for NPR.
So let’s recap. Admitting to feeling a whiff of fear at the sight of ethnically dressed Muslims on a plane he’s about to fly on, a fear Williams himself thinks is irrational but no less real for that, is beyond the pale. At the same time, effectively calling upon God to strike down with AIDS someone Totenberg disagrees with is hunky-dory with NPR. So, apparently, is calling upon God to have one of that man’s innocent grandchildren develop AIDS so that the grandfather could suffer. The grandchild’s suffering, I guess, would just be collateral damage in a worthy cause.
The death of a once-great political movement — American liberalism — sure is painful to watch.