National Public Radio, a taxpayer funded network with a decidedly leftward tilt, has fired longtime commentator Juan Williams. Ed Driscoll reported on this last night, and it’s all over the blogs today. The story arc here is that Williams said something the left and CAIR didn’t like, the left and CAIR raised a stink, and NPR immediately capitulated to them. Juan Williams’ decades of dedicated service at NPR as one of its few credible, mainstream voices ended in a flash.
Three points should be front and center. One, Williams made the comments for which NPR fired him not on their air, but on the Fox News Channel. Two, Williams’ actual comments weren’t all that incendiary and were factually accurate, yet the Muslim Brotherhood mouthpieces at CAIR made an issue of them and so NPR, ever the dutiful dhimmi, fired him. Hey, it’s either that or face whatever maumauing CAIR was cooking up as a next step. And three, this is the second time this week that a public broadcaster said or did something controversial and politically charged, yet only one of the two has faced any disciplinary action. Here are Mr. Williams’ comments:
The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”
Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.
He continued: “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.”
Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Mr. Williams said.
There’s nothing factually wrong in that. The first part is just an honest admission with which one is free to sympathize or reject. The second part is a factually accurate rendering of the failed Times Square bomber’s sentiments. Honesty and factual accuracy constitute firing offenses at NPR?
Just a day before, public broadcaster Gwen Ifill got herself into some trouble on Twitter for siding with Markos “screw them” Moulitsas, aka Kos, against Sarah Palin. Palin, in a speech, rallied her Tea Party supporters not to “party like it’s 1773 yet,” and Kos slammed her for the date, which, BIG HINT, is the year of the Boston Tea Party. And Ifill joined in the mockery on Twitter, only to dishonestly backtrack once Kos’ gaffe got called out.
There are a couple of things at work in all that. One, Ifill assumed that Palin was ignorant while assuming that Kos wasn’t. That’s bias, and Ifill is supposed to be an objective reporter. And two, Ifill dishonestly dealt with the issue and, evidently from her subsequent silence, hoped it all would just go away.
It might have, but thanks to NPR’s firing of Juan Williams, it won’t. Or it shouldn’t. (It will, and that’s among the problems with public broadcasting.)
We live in a world now in which hundreds of channels are available 24/7, radio and television. The Internet brings information from all over the world to us in real time, all the time. There is no shortage of the kind of liberal comment and editorial judgment that public broadcasting delivers. There is no shortage of the kind of nature documentaries or children’s programming that public broadcasting offers. There is no shortage of smug elitist commentary of the kind that public broadcasting offers. We live in an age of media plenty, but exploding public debt. It’s time to cut public expenses, and public broadcasting ought to be the first to go.
If your counter-argument is that NPR and PBS serve folks who don’t have the means to pay for cable or broadband, my counter to that is, have you listened to or watched public broadcasting in the past 30 years? For decades public broadcasting has targeted the upper middle class and the upper class in its programming, because in the public broadcasting universe, that’s who voluntarily pays its bills — along with you, the taxpayer. The difference there is that the upper classes choose to send in the yearly gifts that help keep public broadcasters on the air, while you, the taxpayer, have no choice in the matter.
Neither Gwen Ifill nor Juan Williams should be fired for what they did this week, though, if either deserves discipline, it’s Ifill. If it wasn’t clear when she wrote a paean to Barack Obama before his election to the presidency and then moderated a debate that could have impacted that campaign, it’s clear now that she’s a biased liberal who is incapable of judging facts and public figures fairly. She isn’t objective, but in posing as such, she is dishonest.
The fact is, we don’t need public broadcasting anymore. At all. Public radio and TV should be abolished. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to support them anymore. Neither Williams nor Ifill deserve individual firing, but the networks that have unfairly handled these incidents both deserve the ax.
With George Soros already stepping up to the plate to keep public broadcasting’s leftwing, elitist broadcasting on the air anyway, taxpayers should be let off the hook.
Update: NPR says it got 378 angry emails about Williams in 2008, making him a “lightning rod.” How pathetic. Not just the capitulation, but NPR’s puny definition of “lightning rod.” That’s more like a lightning bug.