Up until last October, Juan Williams worked for National Public Radio as a senior news analyst, and also appeared on Fox News. During an interview on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Williams was asked to address the notion that “jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.” His response proved fatal to his NPR career:
“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. 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.”
Williams was sacked two days later, over the phone. This is the second worst way to get fired in the modern era, the first being via fax. Watching a piece of paper hiccup out of a fax machine, a quarter inch at a time, smeared with huge black letters that read ”YOU’RE FIRED!” is simply unbearable.
The executive who decided to terminate Williams, Ellen Weiss, has now tendered her own resignation, even as NPR wraps up an internal review of the Williams affair. The review concluded the firing was legal, and occurred within the terms of Williams’ contract, but was handled poorly. Although Weiss’ resignation was announced in the same press release, an NPR spokesman later said her departure from NPR was not directly connected with the internal review. If true, that’s remarkable timing for the end of a thirty-year career.
The NPR board of directors also expressed confidence in the leadership of Weiss’ superior, CEO Vivian Schiller, and demonstrated that confidence by taking away her 2010 bonus.
Juan Williams conducted his own review of the termination process, and was a little more blunt than the NPR Board of Directors. “It’s good news for NPR if they can get someone who is the keeper of the flame of liberal orthodoxy out of NPR,” he told his new employer Fox News, which would probably send him a cookie basket, at minimum, if they ever decided to fire him. Which they won’t, because he’s fun.
Williams said of Weiss, “She had an executioner’s knife for anyone who didn’t abide by her way of thinking… and I think she represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture in that institution that’s not open to not only different ways of thinking, but angry at the fact I would ever talk or be on Fox.” This fits in with some thoughts I had on his firing at the time. He also said NPR tried to “demean” him and make him “look like a lunatic” – a jab at Schiller, who had suggested he “keep his feelings about Muslims between himself and his psychiatrist or publicist.” It’s possible his psychiatrist and publicist are actually the same person, because as I mentioned earlier, Juan is fun.
Schiller later apologized for her remarks, which apparently cost her that 2010 bonus check. Juan Williams signed a great contract with Fox and appears happy in his new perch. You still subsidize NPR with your tax money, since the lame-duck Democrats killed a bill that would have withdrawn their funding. It looks like everybody wins. Except Ellen Weiss. And you. Hang on a second, my fax machine is ringing.