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NPR Host Fired Over Comments On Muslims

Helen Tobin |
October 21, 2010 | 11:23 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Longtime political analyst, Juan Williams (Creative Commons)
Longtime political analyst, Juan Williams (Creative Commons)
NPR fired longtime news correspondent Juan Williams on Wednesday after Williams made controversial comments about Muslims during an appearance on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” 

Williams and host Bill O’Reilly were discussing O’Reilly’s recent appearance on “The View” when O’Reilly asked Williams to comment on the idea that the U.S. has a dilemma with Muslims. 

Williams, 56, told O’Reilly that political correctness was getting in the way of people telling the truth. 

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," Williams said. "But when I get on a 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."

NPR released a statement that said Williams was notified of his termination on Wednesday.    

"Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret," NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in an e-mailed statement.

Thursday morning, Williams appeared on Fox News to discuss his firing.  He said he spoke with Ellen Weiss, NPR’s senior vice president, who asked him to clarify his comments. 

"I said, 'I said what I meant to say, which is that it is an honest experience that when I'm in an airport and I see people in Muslim garb who identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I do a double take. I have a moment of anxiety or fear given what happened on 9/11,” Williams said. “That's just a reality."

According to Williams, Weiss called the comments bigoted and told him that the decision to fire him had already been made. 

“I said, 'I don't even get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball to eyeball, person to person?'" he continued. "She said, 'there's nothing you can say that will change my mind, this has been decided above me and we're terminating your contract.’”

This is not the first time NPR has experienced backlash over comments Williams made on Fox News.  After comparing Michelle Obama to Stokely Carmichael on the “O’Reilly Factor” in 2009, NPR called Williams a “lightning rod” and said he draws hundreds of complaints.  NPR executives asked Williams after the appearance to stop using his title as NPR Senior Correspondent when he appears on Fox News. 

Williams will appear on Fox News Thursday night to further discuss his firing. 



To reach reporter Helen Tobin, click here. Follow her on Twitter @HelenTobin.



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