The firing of journalist Juan Williams by National Public Radio for his comments about being “worried” and “nervous” seeing people in Muslim garb while flying is something that impacts all Americans, said Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund.
Fund made the comment at a panel of experts talking about the new media on Oct. 21 sponsored by the TheMichiganView.com and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based education and research institute. The other panelists included Detroit-area radio host Frank Beckmann, Detroit News cartoonist and The Michigan View editor Henry Payne, and the Mackinac Center’s Kathy Hoekstra and Ken Braun, managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news Web site from the Mackinac Center.
If enforcers of political attitudes could destroy Williams’ career, “they can destroy any of us for politically incorrect statements,” Fund said.
‘Williams’ Fight Is Our Fight’
Fund said the liberal movement is redefining politically correctness into something out of George Orwell’s book 1984.
“We have to take a stand here, and now we have instruments of the new media to fight back for commonsense decency and realize that Juan Williams’ fight is our fight as well,” he said.
NPR reported it fired Williams for comments made on the FOX News TV show The O’Reilly Factor.
“But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if 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,” Williams told O’Reilly.
Press Freedom at Stake?
Fox has hired Williams for an expanded role.
“It goes beyond Juan,” said Fund, who started his career at NPR and called himself a friend of Williams. “It goes to the issue of a free press and whether or not we are going to stifle and suppress speech in this country.
“Fears don’t have to be rational, but they can be understandable,” he added. “And we have to discuss them. Censoring them or ignoring them is not conducive to the health of the community. Juan Williams is politically incorrect. He is a liberal, but he is a liberal who thinks for himself. And NPR hated it, … and they looked for any possible reason to try to fire him. Now, they finally found it.”
‘We Are Truly in Danger’
Fund told the audience, “We should not let this go unnoticed.” He said he would never contribute another dime to NPR and told audience members to do the same.
“We should raise a fuss,” Fund said.
Radio host Beckmann also joined in with his comments on Williams.
“If you allow this kind of tyranny to exist within the media, especially with a government-funded form of media like NPR, then we are truly in danger,” Beckmann said. “That in essence is government suppressing speech.”
Tom Gantert ([email protected]) writes from Ann Arbor, Michigan. An earlier version of this article appeared in the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Capitol Confidential. Reprinted with permission.