"What a crock!" It's a phrase my Dad used a lot. Turns out the ole man said more quotable things than I can remember. Had I only known, I would have written them down and turned them into a best selling book and a TV show. Another missed opportunity.
Since he passed away almost 25 years ago I can only imagine what his take might have been on the Juan Williams fiasco but I can virtually guarantee that he would have seen it for what it really is -- a crock.
First let's acknowledge that the winner here is Williams. A flagging career bolstered now by a new contract with Fox News. Reportedly two million dollars over three years. I'd be happy to say something stupid for half that money.
Truth be told, the fair and balanced truth, Juan Williams has been 'over' journalistically and as a social commentator of any note for at least a decade. That's not to say he didn't do impactful work at one time, but times change, careers ebb and flow and Williams' had gone out with the tide. Why else was he on Fox? It's the Bernie Goldberg syndrome.
Be that as it may, the so-called "issue" here is Williams' right to say what he wants, where and when he wants without fear of the consequences. Juan, here's a bulletin for you. There are always consequences.
Williams' "Muslim garb" comment is actually pretty benign. I've thought it, you've thought it. And NPR's response to it is likely an over-reaction. But timing in life is everything and this is the age of the perceived slight and the nuanced insult. It wasn't a Don Imus moment but it fit the parameters and NPR opened the trap door and Williams is gone. He won't miss the very small audience he had on NPR, and NPR won't miss the very small audience Juan Williams brought to the table.
If there is anything that's really disturbing in all this it's the fact that it's getting the kind of play that it is under false pretenses.
It has been at the top of national newscasts, on the front page of newspapers and given headline space on major internet search engines. Why? It's there under the guise of changing journalism, but the real answer is simple -- race.
You have an African-American admitting he's uncomfortable in some circumstances around Muslims, simply for what they are or appear to be. And he's doing so in conversation with one of the great race-baiters of all time -- Bill O'Reilly. He reeled them in on The View and he reeled them in again with Juan Williams. I'm waiting for O'Reilly to bait his next white guest into admitting that he or she is uncomfortable walking down the street at dusk and being approached by three "hip-hop dressed" African-American teens. "Would you cross the street?" O'Reilly will likely ask. What would you answer?
The smoke screen is that it has anything at all to do with journalism or the First Amendment or freedom of the press or fair and balanced reporting. The core issues here are as old as time-race and money. Give Williams credit. Cuba Gooding Jr. couldn't have said it better. Of course my Dad did -- "What a crock."