I haven’t blogged about NPR’s clumsy firing of commentator Juan Williams for saying he gets nervous when boarding an airplane when there are Muslims in line with him, mostly because I’m not exactly sure I think about the issue.
Sure, it’s scapegoating and bigotry and inappropriate. Sure, I’ve felt the same way sometimes. It’s hard to sort out.
What is clear: NPR’s leadership didn’t think through the consequences of their actions in firing him, and in the process gave their conservative opponents the best possible gift.
Can NPR President Vivian Schiller really have believed there wouldn’t be a reaction from Fox News, which immediately gave Williams a $2 million contract and opened up with all gun batteries blazing? Did it genuinely not occur to her that the issue would excite paroxysms of condemnation from Sarah Palin and Charles Krauthammer and just about everyone else in the conservative cosmos? Does she somehow think this won’t be a big boost to leaders in the next Congress who’ve long wanted to muzzle NPR or defund it entirely?
I say this as a longtime NPR fan. Their daily news shows are incomparable, and generally a relief from the daily avalanche of shrieking ideology flimsily packaged as news. I don’t think their Middle East coverage is always balanced – who’s is?- but it’s generally pretty good.
To get by in the cutthroat world of journalism and to survive in an environment in which more and more people simply want to listen or watch news that confirms their perspectives, you have to be smart. These NPR guys seem like the antithesis of smart.