WASHINGTON – "I'm not a bigot," longtime news analyst Juan Williams said. Then he talked about getting nervous on a plane when he sees people in Muslim dress. Fair game for one of his employers, Fox News Channel, but a fireable offense for the other, NPR.Muslim groups were outraged, saying that Williams' remarks Monday on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" endorsed the idea that all Muslims should be viewed with suspicion. But conservatives and even some liberals said NPR went too far in axing his contract for being honest about his feelings in an interview where he also said it is important to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists.The opinions Williams expressed on Fox News over the years had already strained his relationship with NPR to the point that the public radio network asked him to stop using the NPR name when he appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said Thursday that Williams had veered from journalistic ethics several times before Monday's comments.Controversial opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts, Schiller said, adding that Williams was not a commentator or columnist for NPR.Schiller said whatever feelings Williams has about Muslims should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick." In a post later on NPR's website — where comments were heavily against Williams' firing — she apologized for making the "thoughtless" psychiatrist remark.On his Thursday broadcast, O'Reilly blasted NPR for what he called "a disgraceful decision" and called on Schiller to resign."Ms. Schiller is a pinhead," said O'Reilly.NPR had no comment on what was said on the show, said spokeswoman Anna Christopher.O'Reilly said Williams was merely describing how he felt, and that "millions of Americans feel the same way."Williams appeared shaken during an appearance on the show, and when shown Schiller's videotaped comments about him talking to a psychiatrist, asked incredulously: "Now I'm mentally unstable?"He and O'Reilly both said they believed Williams was fired from NPR because of his association with Fox."You know what? I didn't fit into their box," he said.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
From Brett Zongker of the Associated Press on Oct. 21: