MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Juan Williams was fired from NPR this week for saying he got “nervous” when he got on a plane and saw Muslims in “Muslim garb.”
It was a startling statement from someone who has written two highly regarded books on the civil rights movement. But it is also a statement that sits at the heart of American’s struggle to deal with the aftermath of 9/11 and the vulnerability we as a nation feel.
A recent ABC/Washington Post poll shows that 49 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam. In the interview Williams went on to say that prejudice against Muslims or violent acts against them, such as a recent attack on a Muslim cab driver in New York, are reprehensible.
Williams’ remarks are troubling, but they are a visceral reaction that was an honest expression of how he feels. NPR’s decision to fire Williams was a decision to silence the painful dialogue of Americans struggle to overcome prejudice against Muslims.
Williams firing and the remarks by NPR’s CEO that Williams should share his views with his “psychiatrist” are a blow to NPR. CEO Vivian Schiller later apologized for the “psychiatrist” remark, but NPR’s reputation as a venue for the debates, issues and ideas at the center of our national dialogue have been seriously damaged.
The firing also served as a bonanza for Fox News who promptly gave Williams an expanded role and a $2 million contract. NPR’s loss is Fox’s gain.