This is not a case of I told you so -- but I told you so. The "so" is that NPR would cave on its firing of faux liberal Juan Williams. I made that prediction back in October, and the only thing off was the timetable. NPR simply waited until the dust settled and then dumped Ellen Weiss, NPR senior VP. Dumped is my impolite, but truthful word. In corporate parlance, Weiss resigned. Weiss was widely blamed for engineering the Williams ouster. Her fate was sealed the instant that Fox's Bill O'Reilly, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin, the noisy legion of rightwing talk show hacks, and bloggers, screamed that Williams was the sacrificial lamb to allegedly liberal, left leaning, politically correct NPR.
But the thing that really sealed Weiss's fate was the indignant and piqued outcry from some mainstream publications that railed that William's shaft was a blow to the First Amendment and free speech. This was followed by the usual canard -- if it's Williams that gets the ax today for speaking out, it can be any other journalist, commentator, or media voice tomorrow.
The saber rattle of NPR and the phony "liberal bias" notion about NPR from the right was predictable. The First Amendment prattle from the staid media was dumb and hollow. A quick review: Williams had every right to utter his silly, bigoted crack about Muslims making him nervous. But NPR had every right to can him not for the remark but for saying it on another station while still a key fixture at NPR. Williams' observation, honest and heartfelt though it may have been, carried the implicit endorsement of NPR since he worked for the network and was universally identified as an NPR luminary.
But don't for a minute be totally fooled by the pap from NPR about the board of directors making a careful review of the "the process." The head rolling session at NPR had everything to do with NPR's terror of saying or doing anything that will raise the hackle of anyone within or without Congress about the bogus "liberal bias" that the network supposedly has. That terror has risen exponentially since November with the GOP House and Senate election surge and has grown even greater now that the dozens of new GOP congresspersons and senators are actually in their seats. NPR will walk even more lightly on egg shells knowing that it is just one ticked off Tea Party GOP leaning House rep away from having eyes put back on what it says and does and more particularly who says it.
Williams for a while was the perfect NPR cover. He was their guy who routinely flashed across the Fox Network in between his stint with NPR and said all the right conservative things and along the way became adept at liberal bashing.
His removal was never about his right to speak his mind. It was about the two competing, contradictory, and ultimately ethical violating hats that he ill fittingly wore at Fox and NPR. These were hats that NPR should never have let him wear. Williams just as predictably had a field day in the aftermath of his firing, playing the mournful, aggrieved, and of course totally innocent victim of mean, old, duplicitous, hard core "left wing" NPR.
Weiss is out, and the word has almost certainly gushed through the NPR management pipeline to tread even more carefully from here on out to insure that no conservative feathers are ruffled. And just as predictable, Williams couldn't help himself and had to give NPR one final kick in the teeth. "She (Weiss) had an executioner's knife for anybody who didn't abide her way of thinking." Forget Williams' evident memory lapse and gloat since he sat and Weiss sat at NPR for years together with apparently no knife being welded by her against him for saying what he wanted.
NPR did not need not apologize for getting rid of Williams, nor did they have to conduct a two month review of "the process" to justify appeasing Williams, Fox, Palin, the Tea Party, and a handful of shrill, saber rattling congresspersons that have threatened to snatch dollars from them. They caved pure and simple. And that's the bottom line for NPR in the William's affair.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
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