Gaffes trip up on-air reporters

Cable nets have made journalists into stars and popular pundits, but there’s a fine line to tread when voicing an opinion — as Juan Willliams found out. And with the Internet supremely poised to judge and condemn anyone crossing that line, the media has seen some casualties in an accidental wars of words, some of whom may have even provided unhappy employerswith a good reason to get rid of them.

Juan Williams

Job: News analyst, National Public Radio (NPR)

What he said: “(W)hen I get on a plane, I gotta tell ya, when I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Where he said it: “The O’Reilly Factor,” Oct. 18

Who got angry: His employers at NPR

How long before he got fired? Two days

Was it something he said? Sort of. NPR was reportedly unhappy with Williams’ frequent contributions to the network and had asked that Fox News stop referring to Williams as an NPR commentator. Reaction has seen everything from verbal excoriation to bomb threats directed at the radio net.

Where is he now? Fox News. The network immediately gave Williams a $2 million contract.

RICK SANCHEZ

Job: CNN anchor

What he said: “I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot (…) I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart (Jewish).”

Where he said it: The Sept. 30 edition of “Stand Up! With Pete Dominick” on Sirius XM.

Who got angry: Jewish groups and “Daily Show” fans

How long before he got fired? Officially about a day, but Sanchez didn’t show up to anchor his show the next day, so possibly sooner. It was the first major staffing decision from CNN head Ken Jautz. Who is not Jewish.

Was it something he said? At least partly, but it’s likely that if Sanchez was a more highly-valued CNNer he’d have been scolded and told to apologize, rather than being canned. Stewart later joked, “All he has to do is apologize to us (Jews), and we’ll hire him back.”

Where is he now? Still promoting “Conventional Idiocy” (which sort of makes the joke for you) and apologizing in interviews and press releases.

HELEN THOMAS

Job: Columnist, Hearst Newspapers

What she said: “Tell (Israel) to get the hell out of Palestine… Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not Germany, it’s not Poland. They (should) go home (to) Poland, Germany (…) and America and everywhere else. …”

Where she said it: To Rabbi David Nesenoff at an unplanned interview at the White House on May 27. Nessenoff posted the exchange on his website, RabbiLIVE.com

Who got angry: The Oval Office. Press secretary Robert Gibbs called Thomas’ remarks “offensive and reprehensible,” though he denied talking to President Obama about Thomas.

How long before she got fired? Two weeks.

Was it something she said? Yes. Officials and fellow journos asked that she be kicked out of White House press briefings, where she’s had a front-row center seat for years. Thomas stepped down and the seat went to Fox News.

Where is she now? retired

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