Juan Williams, recently ousted as a commentator for NPR based on comments made on the FNC O’Reilly Factor program, will be getting more time on and money from FNC, including a 10/22/10 stint in the host chair as a sub for Bill O’Reilly. Meanwhile, NPR funding is being questioned and defended.
Commenting on the new relationship with Williams, FNC exec Roger Ailes said, “Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at FOX News in 1997. He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by FOX News on a daily basis.”
NPR itself reported on a 10/21/10 Williams appearance with O’Reilly, during which Williams said, “I don’t fit in their box. I’m not predictable, black, liberal. And let me tell you something else, you were exactly right when you said you know what this comes down to, they were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I’m appearing on Fox News. They don’t want me talking to you.”
According to NPR, the numbers associated with Williams’ new deal with FNC are three years and $2M.
Conservative luminaries such as Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich are all calling for defunding of NPR. It says that it relies on federal funding for only 2% of its budget, but acknowledges that is not the case for many of its noncommercial local affiliates.
Free Press exec Josh Silver defended the network, saying that even if it made an error in axing Williams, it should not be seen as a capital offense. “Regardless of what you think about Juan Williams’ dismissal, calling for the defunding of NPR as a result is like asking for the death penalty in small claims court,” he commented. “NPR plays a crucial role in America, providing original, in-depth journalism and educational programming. With commercial newspapers, radio and television stations cutting staff and cutting back on original reporting, the need for a robust public media system has never been greater.”
Many others expressed confusion about the Williams situation, and other recent incidents in the same vein that claimed the jobs of journalists such as Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez. NPR quoted veteran journalist Barbara Walters of ABC’s The View, who said, “If you are a journalist, where you’re supposed to be straight and narrow and not giving opinions, that’s one thing — but if you’re someone giving your opinion, then you’re allowed to give your opinion. You may or may not agree.”
Former New York Times editor Daniel Okrent was also left without a firm opinion. “We value not the absence of opinion but the illusion of the absence of opinion.”I can’t give you a conclusive position on it. What’s the right way to go or the wrong way to go? I do know, once opinion comes into it, it gets to be very shaky ground.”