I’m actually a bit surprised that the Juan Williams firing by National Public Radio (NPR) continues to be a controversy nearly a week after it occurred. I’m not displeased by the ongoing discussion—it’s more of a pleasant surprise.
The most galling feature of the entire episode is the hypocrisy exhibited by NPR. The ombudsman for the network [or should I say ombudswoman to be politically correct?], attempted the other day to explain the decision in greater detail. I’ve read it. She failed.
It’s not about race. It’s also not about free speech, as some have charged. Nor is it about an alleged attempt by NPR to stifle conservative views. NPR offers a broad range of viewpoints on its radio shows and web site.
Instead, this latest incident with Williams centers around a collision of values: NPR’s values emphasizing fact-based, objective journalism versus the tendency in some parts of the news media, notably Fox News, to promote only one side of the ideological spectrum.
The first laughable line is that NPR doesn’t attempt to stifle conservative views, closely followed by how it offers a broad spectrum of viewpoints. On Bill O’Reilly’s program Monday evening, he went down a list of commentators on NPR—not even one was a bona fide conservative. Where does she get off making such an obviously fallacious statement?
Then her comparison of NPR with Fox was incredible. Fox has a bevy of liberal commentators on every program. Even someone as conservative as Sean Hannity always interviews liberals and has them on his panel each night. Yes, his viewpoint is dominant, but his is an opinion show. O’Reilly, while mostly conservative, goes off that reservation on a number of issues, and some of the wacky, far-left guests he allows on his program at times drive me to distraction. Greta Van Susteren is hard to pinpoint—she talks to everyone and doesn’t wear her politics in the open.
NPR, on the other hand …
Shepherd says the latest flap with Williams was the last in a long line of concerns over his comments. Like what? Well, he actually criticized Michelle Obama once. Horror of horrors! You can see Shepherd’s entire explanation right here if you want an amusing read.
As I said, I’m not convinced by her arguments, particularly when Nina Totenberg remains one of NPR’s chief analysts. This is the woman who famously said that she hoped former Sen. Jesse Helms would get AIDS, “or one of his grandchildren will get it.” Nice. Yet she’s still there. When was the last time Juan Williams said he wanted someone to die?
How shall we characterize NPR?
Unfortunately, that’s uncomfortably close to the truth.