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Juan Williams Goes On A Questionable Tear Against NYC Unions

Reported by Ellen - January 4, 2011 -

Has anyone else noticed that supposedly liberal Juan Williams has a propensity for going uber right wing on The O'Reilly Factor? While Williams can sometimes be an excellent advocate for liberals, there seems to be something in The O’Reilly Factor air or water or maybe it's being around Bill O'Reilly, himself, that turns Williams into something unrecognizable. It was to O'Reilly that Williams made his infamous comments about Michelle Obama, that she had the “Stokely-Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going.” And it was to O'Reilly that Williams said that when he sees airline passengers dressed in “Muslim garb,” he gets nervous, comments that got him fired from NPR. So it was not a huge surprise that on last night’s Factor (1/3/11), Williams ignored evidence to the contrary and attacked unions for New York City’s inadequate response to the Christmas blizzard.

As Hamilton Nolan at Gawker noted, unions have become a scapegoat (along with immigrants) for nearly everything that ails our economy. Nolan wrote “Blaming unions for unemployment is a brilliant stroke of political jujitsu, because it appeals to the very people that would naturally be allies of organized labor: the working class.” Not surprisingly, Fox News has joined this anti-union crusade with a vengeance and seized upon reports that a deliberate union slowdown was to blame for New York City’s slow response to the Christmas blizzard. As Media Matters reported, Mayor Bloomberg, the New York Daily News and others have disputed such allegations. Media Matters also noted, “Many reports have cited other factors likely to be responsible, such as the mayor's failure to declare a state of emergency and an inadequate number of sanitation workers.” But rather than delve into those other reports, The O’Reilly Factor last night brought on two political pundits, Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams, for a supposed debate. But without offering any evidence beyond the questionable reporting of Fox News’ sister outlet, The New York Post, Williams jumped at the opportunity to blame unions.

O’Reilly introduced the segment in a somewhat balanced way but one that also managed to suggest that the federal government might be to blame. He praised the “fine reporting” of The New York Post – which, along with Fox News, seems to have relied on second-hand information from one Republican Councilman for its claims that the unions engaged in a deliberate slowdown in retaliation against Mayor Bloomberg. O’Reilly said, “The allegations are in the New York Post, owned by the parent company of Fox News, News Corp, …that a lot, some, a few, you put it on, I don’t know, sanitation bigshots” had given a big “FU” to the mayor. “In the mean time, people died ‘cause ambulances couldn’t get through, almost near riots in some place. So, did the federal government, Juan, have any responsibility to monitor this stuff?”

Williams defended the Obama administration but jumped on the unions. “Oh, yeah. I think they are monitoring it, according to Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, they’re looking at this issue. But you know what, Bill, it was 10 percent of the sanitation people didn’t show up. So forget even the charges, which the New York Post says they have sources that confirm that some of the sanitation drivers, the people who were to plough the snow, intentionally were snarling traffic, and led to deaths! I’m talking about deaths of people who emergency vehicles couldn’t reach. That to me is just outrageous. But it’s an evidence of the mindset of the unions. They feel entitled. They feel as if, you know what? You can’t budget cut or lay people off in the public sector any more without feeling that they are legitimate in punishing you, the mayor and the people of the City of New York.”

It was O’Reilly who walked that back – in order to suggest the Obama administration was to blame. “I don’t want to convict the whole union,” he told conservative Mary Katharine Ham but “The streets were not cleared effectively. That is a fact… It’s now being laid upon… the Sanitation Workers Union… So what is the federal government’s responsibility?” O’Reilly later suggested that Bloomberg was to blame for not having called in the feds for assistance.

But near the end of the segment, as Ham accused Bloomberg of being too wimpy with the unions and said he should be more like Ronald Reagan, who fired the air traffic controllers when they went on strike, Williams jumped in again to offer another gratuitous attack on unions, this time the teachers unions.

“You go, Mary Katharine. And the same applies to education. Yeah.”

Video via Mediaite.