Much has been made of Juan Williams’ recent appearance on The O’Reilly Factor that cost him is job at National Public Radio. Whether or not the comments warranted terminating his employment with NPR has been a matter of debate over the last two weeks.
During his lead into the segment with Mary Katharine Ham, a conservative pundit, and Williams, Bill O’Reilly proclaimed, “[t]here is no question there is a Muslim problem in the world,” before replaying clips from his appearance on The View, where he caused two of the show’s hosts to walk off the stage during a discussion about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”
In apparent sympathy with O’Reilly’s view, Williams said, “[w]hen 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.”
Williams would go on to warn against labeling extremists that hold a certain religious view from being representative of the religion itself. However, a few days after his comments, NPR fired Williams for views “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
The firing immediately caused uproar among commentators, talk show hosts and political pundits who believe – or at least asserted — that the comments were taken out of context and that NPR fired Williams because he worked at Fox News, which is typically viewed as friendly to conservatives and Republicans. Predictable calls for defunding of NPR were made by Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and even Williams himself, among many others.
While NPR claims to receive no “direct” federal funding, the fact is that about 10 percent of its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a quasi-government organization created by Congress during the Johnson administration. According to the CPB website, it received some $393 million from Congress in 2008 and $420 million this year.
We can discuss context all day long, but the question that should be posed to those shouting from the rooftops to defund NPR is: Why are you only now — after the broadcasting firm does something with which you disagree – clamoring to eliminate federal funding for NPR?
NPR should be defunded, not because of the controversial firing of Juan Williams, but because government should not be not be involved in the news business in the first place.