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Firing Juan Williams: Trouble for Public Media?

Updated

Juanwilliams_wilshire As expected, NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams for remarks he made about Muslims on Fox News triggered a vehement reaction from the right.

Mike Huckabee says that public funding for NPR should be cut.

He said in a statement, “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left.

“While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it IS a form of censorship. It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR.”

Even without the Williams incident, there has been a lot of anticipation that a GOP takeover of Congress will spell trouble for funding of public broadcasting. NPR is in much better shape, financially, than PBS, but it is hard not to see budgets on the chopping block as they were in the mid-1990s. Get ready for Big Bird on Capitol Hill.

Update: Sarah Palin writes on Facebook, “NPR says its mission is “to create a more informed public,” but by stifling debate on these issues, NPR is doing exactly the opposite. President Obama should make clear his commitment to free and honest discussion of the jihadist threat in our public debates – and Congress should make clear that unless NPR provides that public service, not one more dime.”

She also is asking President Obama to weigh in.

NPR’s Vivian Schiller didn’t help things when she said that Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims to “his psychiatrist or his publicist.” She has since apologized.

Williams posted a piece on FoxNews.com and will appear on “The O’Reilly Factor” this evening.

He writes in a lengthy post that NPR’s leaders “have used an honest statement of feeling as the basis for a charge of bigotry to create a basis for firing me. Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.”

Williams is now a full-time Fox News contributor and, according to the Los Angeles Times, he has signed a three-year contract for more than $2 million. That’s probably more than he ever could have imagined making at NPR.

Schiller defended the move in a lengthy memo, posted on LAObserved, that tries to make the distinction between analyst and commentator, a tricky line that is perhaps crossed repeatedly in the more incendiary world of cable news. She also says, “this isn’t the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments.”

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