A few seconds later, Williams challenges O'Reilly's suggestion that "the Muslims attacked us on 9/11." Williams points out how wrong it would be to generalize similarly about Christians:
Hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals—very obnoxious—you don't say first and foremost, "We got a problem with Christians." That's crazy.
Williams reminds O'Reilly that "there are good Muslims." A short while later, O'Reilly asks: "Juan, who is posing a problem in Germany? Is it the Muslims who have come there, or the Germans?" Williams refuses to play the group blame game. "See, you did it again," he tells O'Reilly. "It's extremists."
Williams warns O'Reilly that televised statements about Muslims as a group can foment bigotry and violence. "The other day in New York, some guy cuts a Muslim cabby's neck," Williams reminds him. "Or you think about the protest at the mosque near Ground Zero … We don't want, in America, people to have their rights violated, to be attacked on the street because they heard rhetoric from Bill O'Reilly."
I'm not saying Williams is the world's most enlightened guy. He's wrong, for example, about the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. And it's certainly unsettling to hear him admit that he worries when he sees Muslims in distinctive dress. But admitting such fears doesn't make you a bigot. Sometimes, to work through your fears, you have to face them honestly. You have to think through the perils of acting on those fears. And you have to explain to others why they, too, should transcend their anxieties or resentments and treat people as individuals.
That's what Shirley Sherrod did in her speech to the NAACP. It's what Juan Williams did in his interview on Fox News. It was wrong of conservatives to take Sherrod's remarks out of context. It's just as wrong of liberals to do the same to Williams. The USDA, after reviewing Sherrod's remarks in their entirety, offered to rehire her. Now it's your turn, NPR.
(Update: Full video of Williams' exchange with O'Reilly is available here.)