The Juan Williams Story Makes Everyone Happy

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Oct. 21 2010 11:02 PM

The Juan Williams Story Makes Everyone Happy

So I was tied up during the daytime, and this whole Juan Williams thing happened on the Internet. Huh. Howard Kurtz has a


. Much more body to it than the old plastered-down Howie of the Washington Post. How are


There’s no constitutional right to a high-profile media job, so NPR certainly has the right to dump Williams. The question is whether he was axed for what he said or where he said it.

If that's the question, why'd you stick it down in the last sentence of your column, where you could stop writing and walk away rather than answering it? Of course Williams was fired for where he said what he said, because NPR's whole beef with Williams was that he had this second job, at Fox, where the things he said didn't fit very well with the things he was supposed to say in his first job, at NPR. It was a, what's the word?


Maybe Kurtz can talk about it on his Reliable Sources program on CNN, when he reviews the way media like the Daily Beast covered the Williams story.

The question I'm left with, after the fact, is why Williams had to get fired right away.

didn't get fired that fast.

didn't get fired that fast. If your crime is mouthing off thoughtlessly, it's bad form for the boss not to at least act thoughtful in response.

Would a longer wait have saved Williams' job? William Saletan wrote that Williams got the

, which isn't quite right. Juan Williams' comments did sound worse out of context than they did in context. But Sherrod was telling a story about the bad thoughts she had once had to an audience that understood those thoughts had been bad thoughts—outside

, nobody at an NAACP luncheon in the 21st century needs to be convinced that it's wrong to deny legal help to a broke white farmer.

Williams was

that O'Reilly was wrong to keep going around saying "Muslims attacked us on 9/11." The bigotry Williams copped to—and saying he was freaked out by Muslims' religious garb because it implies they're disloyal citizens was a weirdly precise recycling of a classic anti-Semitic theme—was meant to give some ground to the bigoted gasbag he was talking to, in the hope of steering the conversation somewhere less toxic.

Actually, the bigotry was two degrees removed from the purpose of the segment, which was for Williams and his fellow guest to reassure Bill O'Reilly that Bill O'Reilly had not been the unreasonable party when he

till two of the hosts stormed off. Before Williams could even get around to allowing as to how sometimes he didn't like Muslims either, he had to start off by assuring his host that he was right.

All of which is to say that it was a typical inane Fox struggle session, of the kind that NPR has been irritated with Williams for participating in for a very long time now. It even included O'Reilly sneering about the fact that Williams worked for NPR, that nest of politically-correct pantywaists.

So NPR fired Williams. This makes them look like prissy tyrants to Fox News, and it has Republicans yapping about cutting their funding. But this just demonstrates another one of the asymmetric assumptions surrounding the Fox News operation: why should NPR care what the Fox News audience thinks about it? Fox News looks like a bunch of idiot cavemen to the NPR audience, and it wants to look that way. NPR's disgust makes Fox News swing its caveman club around even more proudly. So why can't NPR be just as proud of offending Fox?

Who loses here? NPR gets rid of Williams, which it always wanted to do. Maybe it loses some funding for being so un-American, and Archer Daniels Midland will have to come back and help out. Williams gets $2 million and becomes a prize martyr for Fox News. Fox News has something to yell about. Howard Kurtz has something to offer evenhanded semi-opinions about. I get a blog post at the end of a long day. Why did Williams get fired so fast? Because everyone was having such a good time.


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