NPR Fires Juan Williams Over Muslim Remarks

NPR terminated its contract with longtime senior news analyst Juan Williams after comments he made about Muslims and terrorism on Fox News.

On Monday, Williams appeared on the “O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly.

Juan Williams (Stephen Voss/NPR)

Juan Williams (Stephen Voss/NPR)

“Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot,” Williams said. “You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But 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.”

In a memo, NPR President Vivian Schiller said Williams’ comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.”

Williams has not commented to other news organizations on his firing.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan says Williams is a bigot: “The literal defense of anti-Muslim bigotry on Fox is becoming endemic. It’s disgusting.”

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin condemned the firing. “Government-funded NPR has apparently caved into left-wing attack dogs on the Internet,” she writes.

Choire Sicha of The Awl writes: “Whenever I get on a plane and see that I’m surrounded by midwestern women in pantsuits, I get totally nervous, because I know that they’re going to yack my ear off about their kids and pets.”

I am trying to find raw footage of the O’Reilly interview. The longest clip I am able to find was re-aired today on MSNBC, interspersed with commentary:

25 thoughts on “NPR Fires Juan Williams Over Muslim Remarks

  1. Joy Augenstern

    I am very distressed at the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. I have always appreciated his interviews. In this case, I have been embarassed, and felt guilty, about my own reactions when I get on an airplane, or mass trans and register my anxious curiosity. I don’t notice this anywhere else. So sorry that by expressing what many feel, Mr. Williams has been terminated. My membership renewal to public radio, which is pending, will not occur until Mr. Williams is back on air.

  2. Catherine Bracy

    A rule of thumb: when someone starts a statement by saying “I am not a bigot” something bigoted is probably about to come out of their mouth. I urge everyone to read Andrew Sullivan’s post on this topic. He makes several good points, including: 1) the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and the underwear bomber were both wearing normal western attire; 2) what would we think of someone who assumed every black man in hip hop gear they passed on the street was out to mug them?

    The conflation of all Muslims with the acts of a very few…if you don’t agree that it’s bigotry it’s at least ignorant and lazy, reflecting an unwillingness to think critically. I can see why that would disqualify someone from being a news “analyst.”

  3. Joy Augenstern

    In addition to my previous posting, I think that this was another missed opportunity for conversation and enlightenment among people who don’t consider themselves racist or Islamophobes, but have been impacted in varying degrees by 9/11.

  4. Kathy Tamburri

    I am very disappointed in NPR for this firing. Normally, I am a fan of NPR, but NPR undermines its own credibility by apparently trying to cause a chilling effect on its employees. Juan WIlliams made a comment about his own anxiety. It did not seem intended to malign Muslims, but rather was a human confession, in the service of making a point. Without the larger context, it might make an NPR executive nervous, but firing Mr. Williams is overkill. Juan Williams seems to be an intelligent, honest and credible professional. I am now wondering about NPR as a source of information, though–because if NPR brass fired Mr. Williams in order to be “politically correct,” I can no longer take them very seriously.

  5. Rick Berry

    He got fired because it’s an ignorant thing to say and this is why. No terrorist wears full Muslim garbs on a plane. It’s a silly thing to say. It’s like thinking that a spy wears a tuxedo in the jungle. He got fired because it’s an ignorant thing to say. I’m glad NPR has high expectations in regards to being fair and equal.

    It’d be the same exact thing as a white anchor woman going on fox news and saying, “When I’m stopped at a red light and a black man with baggy pants walks by my car I lock the doors. I’m not saying I should lock my doors. I just do it because I don’t trust black people in casual wear.”

  6. steve

    juan is correct. if any of us are or were bitten by a certain breed dog, henceforth we would be naturally warey of those breeds . to deny that normal, human, reaction and feeling is politically correct , naive and dangerous. how many more times do we have to be attacked?

  7. Robert

    When I heard the news this morning I was utterly speechless! What Juan Williams was conveying was the way most of us feel – be honest with yourseleves! This excellent reporter was fired for stating the obvious! Give me a Break!
    I am sorry but we as a society are going overboard with political correctness- its getting to the point where we are willing to risk public safety. I recently traveled to the Phlippines for work and was pulled out of line at the Manilla airport for additional screening – I am not Asian and guess what? I looked different from everyone else- I was not surprised nor insulted, it made sense for the extra screening. Sorry to state the obvious bu racial profiling is a reality and here to stay!
    I will solely miss Mr Williams and his awesome reporting! NPR’s loss!

  8. Sylvia Graves

    I am outraged at the firing of Juan Williams. He spoke the truth in my opinion so my question is . . . Would it have been better for him to lie ? What sort of news organization is NPR?


    I will NEVER again send another dime or listen to an organization that stomps all the first amendment rights of an individual as classy as Juan.

    So long you soros lap dogs!!

  10. Mike

    NPR couldn’t reconcile having him on and him being on FOX as well. They had already downsized his role and were hoping he would quit. This was a flimsy excuse.

  11. J. Braun

    The State Dept. tells us to be aware when we travel. NPR demands that we put on blinders, have no opinions, and shut up and drink the koolaide. I didn’t always agree with Juan Williams but I always respected his clarity and intellect. Shame on you, NPR!!

  12. Tyrone

    I have given a lot of money to WBUR over the years, including donating automobiles. When people of any abnormal dress are encountered in public, people notice they are different, perceive them as different, and do treat them as different. And the people wearing that abnormal garb are wearing it precisely because they want to stand out as different. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Juan’s statement, but there is plenty wrong with NPR’s response, which was bigoted. If Juan were white, like Ted Koppel, Juan would still be employed by NPR.

  13. Amanda K. Brown

    Thank you NPR for doing what was called for in this instance. Mr. Williams’ comments were offensive, albeit profoundly less offensive than Mr. O’Reilly’s. It is ridiculous to believe that in our current political and security climate, any actual terrorist would board a plane in full Muslim garb. The growing anti-Muslim fervor in the United States is deeply unsettling and shameful. Please remember that our country was born of immigrants seeking a land of religious tolerance. Let’s make our founders proud and set an example for the rest of the world by being exemplary leaders in civil and religious rights.

  14. Angelica

    I’m a big NPR fan.
    And, as fans of any team or institution, I was bound to be disappointed by something at some point. JW’s firing is a disproportionate response to a questionable comment about a sensitive issue. Just take the angry letters that were sure (and reasonably) to follow and show some backbone.

  15. tom allain

    National radio in America should encourage Freedom of speech. I think you have lost your way here NPR. I have seen a lot more offensive opinions then Juans given on NPR and they were not even questioned…Change is in the air…Juan will come out on top in the end, the truth always does.

  16. Detra

    I’m a strong supporter of and believer in NPR. That being said, I think it was a mistake to fire Mr. Williams for his comment. I believe that many scared people feel the same way. When I see someone in full muslim dress, I look at them twice. When I see young black men with their pants hanging off and congregating together, I look twice and I worry. Groups of white men also make me nervous. I am the product of my country. I am a black woman, living in a world where people profess the need to hurt others to protect their muslim identity/right. I live in a world where young black men lash out and commit violent crimes. I live in a world where white people say and think awful things about people of color. Mr. Williams lives in the same world. He spoke about his personal feelings. He didn’t say all muslims were terrorists. I think NPRs decision was an overreaction to a reasonable, not necessarily rational, feeling. However, I hope that such an overreaction isn’t exacerbated by the types of overreactions I note above. NPR provides a great service and still deserves our support. For example, all day, I have been hearing their reporters and anchors discussing the rationale, impact, sensibility, if you will, of NPR’s decision. How often does FOX News’ ombudsman, if they have one, comes on the air to discuss something its viewers believes was a mistake the network made. I hope people will continue supporting the station.

  17. maya

    Mr. Williams’s comments were unfortunate, as was NPR’s repsonse. Unfortunate, because he was lulled by familiarity into believing that he could have a heartfelt conversation in a commercial, public forum–but not be held accountable to his boss’s (NPR’s) need for relative impartiality from its news reporters. NPR’s response is unfortunate because it really needs to examine its policy about allowing its reporters (not analysts or others but those calling themselves reporters) to speak out on commercial stations. Clarify guidelines. I don’t think NPR necessarily made the wrong decision. The problem is that anybody who thinks FOX is anything but wily and out to make controversies (it’s what SELLS!) is naive. NPR needs to grow up. Juan Williams needs to think. Both go to your corners and apologize. Then draw some bright lines: NO PERSONAL VIEWS MAY BE EXPRESSED ON AIR ANYWHERE and make clear stuff like this can’t happen for NPR to keep you on as a reporter. The public desperately needs reporters who try to remain unbiased and intelligent enough not to betray their PERSONAL ideas about stories they’re commmenting on or reporting on. Sorry, Juan. You were honest but goofed. Sorry NPR. Egg on your face for mismanagement of allowing contractual employees too much leeway. What did you think would happen–if not with Juan then with other reporters, sooner or later?

  18. Detra

    By the way, I hope they offer Mr. Williams his job back and he accepts. I know my fears are my own and they should not be projected on innocent people going about their day. Good luck to us all in remembering this.

  19. Sol

    “abnormal dress”???????? Tyrone, what does that mean? Abnormal dress is subjective. What about:

    -people who wear daisy dukes worn with heels
    -hipsters who wear winter hats indoors
    -new yorkers that dress like lumberjacks (and never leave the city)
    -kids who wear fitted caps with the sales label still on
    -women who wear “hooker chic”
    -people who wear ugg boots worn with daisy dukes in the summer
    -black preppies
    -people who wear Jersey Shore style
    -london funk
    -black punks
    -unwashed hipsters with weird patches all over their unwashed jeans
    -people who wash themselves but never wash their jeans and wear the same pair everyday
    -Sara Palin in a red suit
    -Gloria Allred wearing red when she’s not wearing pink
    -hipsters in expensive unlaced shoes that they’ve owned for two weeks but look as if they’ve been wearing them for 20 years
    -people who wear surfer clothes but don’t surf
    -black men who only wear blue
    -white men who only wear red
    -men so small they can fit into women’s size 0 jeans
    -women who wear men’s shoes
    -men who wear a suit and tie on casual Friday
    -people who wear loafers without socks
    -people who wear white after labor day
    -people who wear white before Memorial Day
    -People named Tyrone(could be seen as a common name of someone who will rob you of your luggage while walking through the airport after getting off a plane full of people wearing abnormal dress-unless the person named Tyrone is white)

    And in case your super offended Tyrone. I’m black.


  20. Sol

    Good bye Juan. And as my mother used to say, “don’t let the doorknob hit you where the good lord split you”.

  21. Stephen Levine

    Is Juan delusional? Do you believe someone in “Arab garb” is the threat? Perhaps it is the clean shaven guy looking to wholly blend in?

    If the guy has shaved his legs and arm hair, he is either Michael Phelps or a possible problem.

    Juan deserves Fox, Fox deserves Juan.

  22. John

    Why not solve this free speech issue by threatening violence or having a riot? It worked to suppress cartoons and prevent that idiot from burning a Koran.