Coverage of Juan Williams’ Firing

I’m bothered by the slipshod commentary on the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. Commentator after commentator on TV has said, in defense of Williams, mind you, that he was fired for stating an opinion about passengers who wore “Muslim garb” on airplanes on which he was flying. In my opinion, if he had done that, he still wouldn’t deserve firing. But that’s not what he did. The “opinion” he stated was not about Muslims at all but about himself. He was describing his own emotional reaction. It was not an opinion about anyone else; it was a fact about himself. It was an acknowledgment that when on a plane he feels momentary anxiety upon seeing people in Muslim garb who identify themselves first and foremost as Muslim. Later in his remarks, he cautioned viewers to keep separate ordinary Muslims from the radicals who keep blowing things up. Professional journalists, our “watchdogs” who get special protection under our Constitution, if they are to deserve their special place in society must be able to make such distinctions.

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