Juan Williams, a reporter and analyst has been fired. I don’t think it was because of his admission of bigotry, but for confusing confessional with analysis.
I’m one of those who have found him irritating on NPR. He’s found a niche becoming the moderate, the centrist, the skeptical liberal. I found his analysis of Obama particularly grating, a little churlish and usually pedestrian. Too often he takes a David Brooks-like attitude: a little self-righteousness, a little smarmy, a little slippery, and usually patronizing. The smartest kid in the class, who never had to learn from anybody, surrounded by the rest of us idiots.
It wasn’t always the case. Once he was a reporter, and a very good one.
But I also sometimes enjoyed watching him on Fox. He was the token liberal, a little more aggressive and thoughtful than Alan Colmes, trying to understand the conservative mindset without getting in too deep.
The quote that began this kerfuffle was kind of like the liberal who says, “hey, we’re all racists, right?” Williams then didn’t defend racism but challenged O’Reilly to reconsider his views. He honestly tried to change O’Reilly’s mind.
Self-revelation is one way we try to describe what is true. Sometimes, such as in group therapy, it is useful. It is not part of the traditional culture of public debate. Perhaps NPR could have quietly suggested that he’s got to find other ways to share his analysis.
I can’t help but think that there were already plenty of people thinking of ways to get him out of NPR, and this was just an excuse, the final straw, an opportunity to cut him loose. After all, he’s been a headache for NPR for a long time.
I won’t miss him, but I think he’s been wronged. An apology and a reprimand would have been enough. That said, now that he’s been fired by NPR, perhaps his credibility among conservatives will soar.
But please, Juan, handle this like with magnanimity and grace. Handle this as if you’d like your job back. Don’t feed into the madness.
The NPR Ombudsman argues the firing could have been handled differently, although it was probably legitimate.