The firing of Juan Williams from NPR has been attributed to a number of motivations. His comment about being personally frightened about Muslims boarding his airplane was, itself, the main factor. But more often than not, people opining on the issue have pointed to Williams' association with Fox News and his tendency, while on that network, to offer sympathies for conservatism.
Race has remained relatively un-discussed if, for nothing else, because there appeared to be no overtly racial undertones with the firing. But on Sunday, Fox News' Brit Hume, sitting across from Williams, went there, arguing that Williams was fired because he didn't fit NPR's "culture" of what an African-American news analysts should be.
There is no evidence that Nina Totenberg has ever been in any way criticized, warned, or suffered any loss of standing for her free-wheeling opinion dispensing as she has done on that show, Inside Washington, for almost the better part of two decades. And as you pointed out Cokie Roberts, another esteemed colleague, someone who like you we all know very well, has never been reprimanded for that kind of thing either.
It's a howling double standard. The standard being applied to Juan Williams is manifestly not being applied to other NPR people. And I think it is simply this, that in the culture of NPR, appearing on Fox is a sin. And in the culture of NPR, for an African American man like Juan, regardless of his extraordinary stature, to be there and be kind of a Bill Cosby liberal, not a down-the-line liberal, is a sin as well. They have been gunning for him for years. These remarks about Muslim garb at airports was merely a pretext. They have been wanting to get him, and got him, and in so doing exposed themselves for who they are.
It's not entirely clear what a Bill Cosby liberal is, or why Williams assumed the role of one on Fox. Williams, for what it's worth, didn't push back against Hume's thesis that race may have played a role in his firing. He did, however, seem quite comfortable on the set, where every panelist took turns denouncing the radio station for its handling of the affair.