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Juan Williams' Not Fired For Just One "Honest" Remark

Reported by Ellen - October 23, 2010 -

As I previously posted, Juan Williams did not just make one "honest" statement (in support of Bill O'Reilly's bigotry) before he was fired. He has also made other racially-charged statements on Fox News. Now Raw Story is reminding us that Williams was disciplined by the Washington Post for making "inappropriate" sexual comments to female colleagues.

Let me just say that I am agnostic about the Williams firing. With so many people losing their livelihoods these days, it's hard for me to get too upset about a guy who gets a multi-million dollar contract as compensation. On the other hand, I don't see why NPR didn't just wait out Williams' contract and not renew it.

But clearly there's more to this story than Williams affirming Bill O'Reilly's anti-Muslim rant with an admission that he, Williams, gets nervous and worried if there are Muslims on the same airplane as he. As NPR's chief executive told The New York Times,

"(Williams) had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people's air."

On one such occasion last year, Mr. Williams said on Fox that Michelle Obama has "got this 'Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress' thing going," an allusion to a leader of the black power movement of the 1960s.

In each instance, Ms. Schiller said, "We called him on it, we had a discussion, we asked him not to do it again." NPR's ethics code states that journalists "should not express views" in other outlets, like TV shows, that "they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist."

People deserve second chances, Ms. Schiller said, but "we made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that's what we did."

Now we learn that Williams was disciplined by the Washington Post, another of his employers. In 1991, Howard Kurtz wrote in The Post that Williams' columns about Anita Hill angered many women in the Post newsroom and several came forward to say they had had problems with Williams. Kurtz also noted,

In an open letter to the newsroom, Williams said: "It pained me to learn during the investigation that I had offended some of you. I have said so repeatedly in the last few weeks, and repeat here: some of my verbal conduct was wrong, I now know that, and I extend my sincerest apology to those whom I offended. I have committed to Post management, and I commit to you -- and to myself -- to change my ways."

Williams's letter came several hours after about 50 female employees met with Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and said they objected to The Post's refusal to say how the paper had resolved allegations of verbal sexual harassment against Williams. The newspaper's management has maintained that such personnel inquiries must remain confidential.

Again, I'm agnostic about Williams' firing. But clearly there's more to it than his one comment about Muslims and very possibly more than is publicly known.

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