American Morning

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October 22nd, 2010
07:20 AM ET

Juan Williams Firing: Should journalists express opinions?

Was NPR's firing of Juan Williams over his comments on Muslims warranted? And, do journalists have boundaries they must adhere to when it comes to free speech?

This morning, Kiran Chetry talks political correctness, free speech and journalism with Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, and William McGowan, author of the forthcoming book "Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America."

 How's the blogosphere weighing in? Check out this list of reactions from political figures and journalists.

Filed under: American Morning • Media
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Candy Worner

    It's about time NPR got rid of Juan Williams. His reporting has been unbalanced for many years. As a listener I do not want a reporters personal opinion. I want experts, I repeat, experts opinions on the subjects reported.

    As to financial support of NPR, I think the government should support NPR completely. During these hard economic times I can't afford cable TV. I listen to the radio and watch public television. I can't afford to contribute right now and I am thoroughly disgusted with constant fundraising that reminds me of how bad off the economy and my life is, right now.

    I also find it revolting to hear how Williams came out on top by being hired by this other irresponsible reporting news station.

    October 22, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  2. Pauly

    If Juan Williams has a phobia about flying w/ Muslims, he should seek a psych's help rather than raise the fears/anxiety of others who want to fly. If his fear is real, he has a right to change flights. Or drive to his destination! Ot take the high speed rail that the GOP doesn't want!!!

    October 22, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  3. gypsy


    thanks, NPR, for making it easier for the right to win the battle for hearts and minds in this country. You not only did your best to strangle free expression, you also publicly humiliated a good and decent man who was waging the fight for real liberalism and true tolerance when most of you were still messing in your diapers. Juan Williams is the "bad guy"? Juan Williams should be fired? JUAN WILLIAMS???? Have you lost your weak little minds?

    Or is it that thirty pieces of silver you just got from George Soros clouding your judgement?

    October 22, 2010 at 8:54 am |

    This firing of JUAN WILLIAMS just further proves how HATEFUL this country really still is. The 'ENALIENABLE' right of 'free speech' was originally meant for free 'WHITE MEN', not even white women; and certainly not BLACKS; who were still in chattell slavery when the constitution was being composed or documented! There are many who maintain that same old 'stinking thinking'. EXAMPLE: O'REILLY COULD SPEW HIS BIGOTTED OPINION ON 'THE VIEW', but WILLIAMS COULDN'T EVEN MAKE A COMMENT; NOT TO SPEAK OF AN OPINION!

    October 22, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  5. mike sey

    American media is totally confused. It can't distinguish between punditry, opinion, news reporting, annalysis, advocacy or outright Billy Mays celebrity and promotion. Worse it can't decide what it wants to be any more.
    As a former journalist I can tell you that you can't go far wrong putting news and facts first. Otherwise, straying into opinion depends on the forum and circumstance, but should at least pay homage to facts and be clearly labelled as such.
    Given the circumstances ,Williams, Nasr, and Helen Thomas should not have been fired for what they said. Sanchez and Dobbs, however, are somewhat different cases.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  6. Lina

    I think every university should fire the professors who teach psychology because what Williams described is what is taught about prejudice and bias currently in class. By that same way, we should dismiss the members of the Supreme Court who recognize the same thing. Williams did not make a bigoted statement. He stated what is called in psychology as an unconcious bias – and by doing so, he made people think which is what a reporter should do.

    am ashamed and appalled that my tax dollars fund a bigoted, biased network like NPR. They had NO reason whatsoever for Mr. Williams dismissal which they did as a "knee reaction..." Reporters should tremble and worry at NPR because sneezing could constitute charges for dismissal. I wonder who will be the next...

    October 22, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  7. Brian

    I've listened to NPR's morning addition occasionally...if you listen to that you'd think that every Catholic Priest molests children and half the country was gay.

    If Juan would have said "I go to these tea parties and I see how these hillbillies are, they scare me."

    Not a thing would have been said. Guarenteed.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  8. Joanne Macinnes

    So much for freedom of expression/speech.Most of us have offened others at more than one point in our lives....a heart felt appology should suffice,Political correctness is ruining this country.If you dont like what is being said... change the channel!

    October 22, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  9. Tony

    The man was sharing how he feels on his show. He is no different than any other person in the media they share how they feel about things.
    I for one agree with him I check over the passengers on each flight and make a mental note of where they are and how I would handle them by watching their movements before the flight. Welcome to today's world because of the losers that attacked this country.

    He was not malicious he was saying how he feels. Honesty is now being punished in America what a joke!

    October 22, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  10. chris

    And to say his feelings about Muslims should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist – take your pick" is very offensive... Political correctness will be a huge part of the downfall of this great country.... Way to go america.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:35 am |
  11. chris

    I would qualify what Nina Tottenberg said as hate speech. Wishing something like that upon someone is worse than stating a statistical fact that a large number of terrorists happen to be Muslim. this country is getting to the point where we are scared to discuss simple facts... Jesse jackson was also stating a statistical fact... This country is becoming more and more embarrassing.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  12. chris

    Nina Tottenberg OF NPR said she wants Jesse Helms or his grand children to get aids from a blood transfusion... She is still employed... sooo obviously this is just an attack against Juan.

    Jesse Jackson said this with no controversy (from what I understand) "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.... After all we have been through. Just to think we can't walk down our own streets, how humiliating."

    Nufff said.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  13. justsomethoughts


    To be clear Juan Williams was the ONLY black man on NPR on a regular basis. Liberalism is a lie of a promise used to manipulate the masses by giving them a little while stealing their dignity through hand outs and condescension. Take a look at the heads of ALL the union thugs behind Obama... They are all white elites who are paid millions to "stand up for the little guy and minorities." The point of this firing was to remind people of color that they better do and say what the "white man/woman" expects them to say or they will get the ax. No different than the way that the liberal white elites have treated Condalisa Rice, Judge Thomas, and anyone of color who dares to speak outside of the liberal establishments talking points.

    This wasn't even an opinion! The man just said he has second thoughts when he sees people getting on the plane who are obviously Muslim. Who in this nation doesn't! He wasn't advocating that position. He wasn't saying it was right of him to feel that way. There was NO OPINION given.

    Think for yourselves people!!! FIRE NPR.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  14. Pauly

    The 1st Amendment protects Americans & the media from retaliation for speaking out against the govt. It does NOT protect journalists/commentators from discharge by their employers or beauty pageant contestants from the organizers, etc. Go to work today & tell your boss he's a jerk & see if the 1st will protect your job. Go to a biker bar & say people who ride are wimps. Try to cry freedom of speech while you're getting whooped. The 1st won't protect you if you shout fire in a movie theater nor in many other situations. It was never meant to!

    October 22, 2010 at 7:52 am |
  15. Mel

    NPR posts their ethics code online. A cursory glance tells you that Juan has been skating around the rules for quite some time, with his commentary on Fox. This time was perhaps the last straw.
    While I like Juan, he did compromise the integrity of NPR, who attempts to present news sans bias.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  16. Rik

    No, I do not think that new commentators should give their opinion on the stories they cover WHILE they are covering those news items. On the other hand, they should have the same right to voice their opinions as the rest of the US citizenry. The only time this would be trumped is if he is being interviewed where the news group he is working for set up the interview. Interview may be replaced by any other activity. Basically, he's still on the clock, then they should keep their opinions to themselves and just give good reporting.

    That is the crux of the matter isn't it: news reporters are reporters. They report on the goings on of the world or what ever the area that they are hired for.

    Only people I hold outside this restriction. of course, are those who were hired to give their opinions. Then they have no restrictions at all.

    Nuff said. Good thing to. My fingers are getting tired and soar. LOL

    October 22, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  17. Dorothy Kincaid

    Two things: Now Juan knows he is a Black man in American. He never and never will have a voice on FOX. Please he has lived in a box and doesn't really know what he is. Fox will welcome him with open arms and they do most 'tokens.' OK now – Sanchez and Williams.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  18. el

    Journalists are people, therefore they should be able to voice their opinion. In fact, sometimes the network they work for is so biased in their opinions, it is clearly easy to see who is left or right winged.
    To fire journalists like Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr & Williams is WRONG. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech. There is a dangerous pattern with all these firings, and it's not a good sign.

    October 22, 2010 at 7:26 am |