Juan Williams Says It’s Time to Defund NPR

And forget journalism. His beef is deeply personal.

By Jamilah King Mar 21, 2011

Former NPR columnist Juan Williams thinks it’s time to defund his former station. This morning, he took to The Hill to make his case, pointing to a fundraising letter sent out by Democratic Rep. Steve Israel as evidence that the station’s just a liberal mouthpiece:

Rep. Israel has unintentionally endorsed every conservative complaint about NPR as a liberal mouthpiece. And to me, as a journalist, it is also a statement of why NPR’s troubled management team has turned its fundraising efforts into a weapon to be used against its essential product – top quality, balanced reporting. No journalist should have to work with one finger in the political winds, anxiously waiting to see if Democrats continue to be pleased with what they hear on NPR as a counter to what they don’t like hearing from Rush Limbaugh.

Williams then dives into the latest James O’Keefe-inspired controversy. In his latest "sting", O’Keefe, a widely known and surprisingly successful conservative activist, caught former NPR fundraiser Ron Scholler on tape denouncing the tea party as racist. Williams says that the Schiller’s comments are " instructive because they provide a window in to the culture of elitism that has corroded NPR’s leadership."

Williams’s beef, of course, is deeply personal, and reads as such. He was fired by the station last year after admitting on Fox News that Muslims on planes make "nervous." The irony in all this, of course, is that Williams doesn’t exactly have a great track record as an "unbiased" journalist. As Kai Wright wrote shortly after Williams was fired, he’s made a career out of masquerading casual racism as news analysis:

Williams had spent years making an improbable hustle work out for himself. He sold opposing services to separate employers. For NPR, he played the role of sober news analyst, always at the ready to explain big race headlines in calm, clear prose. For Fox, he played the role of good-natured sounding board for the bombastic, often racist nonsense Bill O’Reilly and other hosts spout. In this latter role, as with most of Fox’s "news" personalities, Williams was more of an entertainer than an analyst. He was, as Farai Chideya wrote in the Huffington Post, O’Reilly’s hype man.

And you know what, that’s all good. It’s not a hustle to respect, but it’s his right. At the same time, one job plainly cheapened the other, and NPR’s brass had long been annoyed with that fact. Williams finally gave them an excuse to get rid of him and, in so doing, improved his hustle substantially by landing a multi-milion dollar contract at Fox. He’s quickly proven adept at filling the job they’ve hired him for: House Negro.

Careful where you throw those stones, Mr. Williams.