NPR has made a strategic error on this one. Mr. Williams, whom I do admire a great deal, was dismissed for his appearances on FoxNews, more than anything else. NPR has been trying to disuade Mara Liasson from continuing her appearances on the network as well.
What really irks me about the left in this country is their intollerance for any opinion that is contrary to accepted politcally correct speech. Any time anyone ventures an opinion that isn't part of the accepted wisdom of the left, they are excoriated to no end. Just take a look at the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post or Daily Kos. Any time anyone posts an opinion that's contrary to what is accepted, dozens, if not hundreds of comments will be posted almost literally shouting down the offending poster. DK goes so far to remove any post or comment that offends liberal or, excuse me, "progressive" sensibilities.
Mr. Williams was terminated because he dared to be honest, not because he strayed from NPR's official guidelines, "standards and practices". After all, Nina Tottenburg is neither a "commentator" nor an "annalyst", yet she regularly gives her, often far left, opinions during her reports. She is one of the reasons that I no longer listen to NPR's news programs. Yet Mr. Williams is held to the higher standard...
Fox News, Williams's remaining employer, has posted on its website the internal memo from Schiller to NPR Staff. Schiller says that as a "news analyst," Williams was expected to fill "a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist":But, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller had this to say about Mr. Williams, "
News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation.
on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself, 'his psychiatrist or his publicist'...
This isn't the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan's public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal [sic]. . . .By this same standard, when in 1995, Ms. Tottenberg said this,
These specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR's ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts):
"In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis." . . .
Unfortunately, Juan's comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.
Now, while NPR's national network only receives about 2% of it's funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the local affiliates receive more than 60% of their individual station funding from that source. I believe that the time has come (actually it's about 40 years past that time but I digress) to stop funding both, NPR and PBS. The government has no place funding broadcasting at all. But then, it doesn't have any place owning car companies or banks either, yet "we" now own both.
The most notorious example, noted by Reason's Michael Moynihan, is an old one. In July 1995, she said this about Sen. Jesse Helms: "I think he ought to be worried about the--about what's going on in the good Lord's mind, because if there's retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it." Wishing death on the senator's grandchildren is a particularly nice touch.The Weekly Standard's, Steven Hayes points out that,
On Oct. 10, Totenberg--whose beat is the Supreme Court--said this about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a free-speech decision that liberals loathe: "Well, you know, really, this is the next scandal. It's the scandal in the making. They don't have to disclose anything. And eventually, this is the kind of thing that led to Watergate."She should have been terminated immediately, just as Mr. Williams was this past week. But then, these opinions are shared by the powers that be at NPR, thus, Ms. Tottenberg gets a pass.
Just this past Sunday, Hayes writes, Totenberg "told us that Michelle Obama is 'an incredibly graceful surrogate' for her husband who gives people 'warm and fuzzy' feelings."
On Oct. 3, Hayes writes, "she decried Republicans--a 'concerted minority'--for holding up business in the Senate and declared that their willingness to exploit antiquated congressional rules was a 'loony way to do business.' " (Maybe Vivian Schiller can recommend a shrink.)
"Her most partisan comment," Hayes adds, "came when Charles Krauthammer pointed out that 31 Democrats in the House had written to Nancy Pelosi to call for extending the Bush tax cuts, Totenberg wished them out of the party. 'When a party actually has a huge majority, it has a huge diversity. And that is part of the problem that Democrats have. But would I like it to be otherwise? Of course.' "
But here is the best explantion that I've come across as to WHY Mr. Williams was summarily terminated, Doctor Zero, a centre-right blogger suggests that,
I think one of the reasons the hardcore liberals who run NPR terminated Williams is their desire to abort a preference cascade. . . . As described by Glenn Reynolds in a classic 2002 essay, a preference cascade occurs when people trapped inside a manufactured consensus suddenly realize that many other people share their doubts. Preference falsification works by making doubters feel isolated and alone. . . .That of course cuts to the core of the matter. Liberals hate it when someone breaks ranks and has the termerity to openly discuss what "progressives" consider to be closed taboo subjects. Mr. Williams broke that taboo when he spoke about his fears on air to an audience of millions (The O'Reilly Factor is the highest rated cable news-annalysis-commentator show on television), thus, he HAD TO GO! But,
Since a free society makes it very easy for individuals to change their opinions, they must be prevented from even considering such a change. Manufactured consensus is very fragile in a competitive arena of ideas, when there is no fearsome penalty for a "Fresh Air" listener who decides to switch over to Rush Limbaugh.
The manufactured liberal consensus about Islamic terrorism rolled off the assembly line a long time ago. . . . A credentialed, taxpayer-supported NPR liberal cannot be allowed to question this consensus. It will shatter too easily if the clients of liberalism begin connecting dots between underwear bombers and pistol-packing Army psychiatrists. They cannot be left to nod quietly in agreement with the earnest musings of Juan Williams . . . then look around the room and see all the other faithful liberals nodding at the same time. . . .
Juan Williams came too close to understanding ideas he was supposed to hate. The Left is deathly afraid of what happens when its constituents begin to understand the Right. They didn't like the idea of millions watching an NPR contributor break the biohazard seal on strictly quarantined ideas.
If, as Doctor Zero suggests, NPR has come to see its purpose as the defense of a closed ideological system, then Nina Totenberg is the very ideal of an "NPR journalist." But if this is the case, in what sense can NPR be considered "public" radio?No, it cannot. If NPR and PBS are going to continue to broadcast with an obviouos bias as this, then they must gain their funding from non-public, tax based sources. They must show that their business models are viable and enter the market place to compete for advertising dollars, just as every other network has to do. After all, neither has been "commercial free" for a couple of decades. If their product is of sufficient quality, then they will thrive, but they shouldn't be receiving government funds to do so.