NPR has fired longtime news analyst Juan Williams, also a commentator on the Fox News Channel, after he told Bill O’Reilly that he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane.
In a statement late Wednesday, National Public Radio said it was terminating Williams’ contract as a senior news analyst over his comments on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”
NPR executives had previously complained about his remarks on Fox and asked him to stop using the NPR name when he appeared on O’Reilly’s show.
The latest comments came Monday, when O’Reilly brought on guests to discuss his own appearance last week on ABC’s “The View,” during which Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set to protest his views on Muslims.
“Where am I going wrong here, Juan?” O’Reilly asked.
Williams, 56, responded that too much political correctness can get in the way of reality.
“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,” Williams said. “But when I get on a 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.”
He went on to say that not everyone in a religious group–Christian or Muslim–should be lumped together with extremists.
NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said that controversial opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts and that whatever feelings Williams has about Muslims should be between him and “his psychiatrist or his publicist.”
Speaking Thursday at the Atlanta Press Club, Schiller also said Williams had veered from journalistic ethics several times before Monday’s comments.
Before Williams was fired, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said such commentary from a journalist about other racial, ethnic or religious minority groups would not be tolerated.
Later Wednesday, NPR issued a statement saying Williams’ remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
“Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret,” NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in an e-mailed statement.
Williams’ appearances on Fox have been an issue for NPR in the past, including his remarks about Michelle Obama on a 2009 episode of “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“Michelle Obama, you know, she’s got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going . . . her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I’m the victim,” Williams said, according to an account by NPR’s Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. Carmichael was a civil rights activist.