NPR cans Juan Williams after comments about Muslims on airplanes

Following in the tradition of CNN, who jettisoned afternoon anchor Rick Sanchez and Middle Eastern expert Octavia Nasr in record time, NPR last night fired longtime commentator Juan Williams, after remarks he made about Muslims on The O'Reilly Factor Monday night.

The comments came as O'Reilly again focused on his spat with Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg on The View last week, when the conservative commentator blamed Muslims directly for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, prompting the two hosts to dramatically walk off their own set (they returned shortly after O'Reilly apologized).

Though the temperature over the proposed mosque/cultural center several blocks from Ground Zero has been lowered greatly as the mass media focuses on the midterm elections, O'Reilly has kept up the controversy on his show, as he battles what he says is the political correctness that is hurting the country.

So on Monday night, the topic came up again early on in his show, with his regular Monday night feature with Williams and Mary Katherine Ham.

Here's the offending words that cost Williams his job at NPR:

NPR reported the news on its own website this morning:

Late Wednesday night, NPR issued a statement praising Williams as a valuable contributor but saying it had given him notice that it is severing his contract. "His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," the statement read.

Williams' presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.

His status was earlier shifted from staff correspondent to analyst after he took clear-cut positions about public policy on television and in newspaper opinion pieces.

Reached late Wednesday night, Williams said he wasn't ready to comment and was conferring with his wife about the episode.

No doubt Williams was on a short leash at NPR, where his role as a more liberal commentator clashed with some of the comments he would make on Fox. For years NPR had been getting negative feedback from listeners unhappy about his even working at Fox (the network also receives criticism for having one of their top political correspondents, Mara Liasson, as a regular on Fox News Sunday).

And Muslim groups had reacted with indignation to his comments from Monday night.  The Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director, Nihal Awad, issued a statement before NPR canned Williams on Wednesday.

NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats. Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR.

Williams reported for the Washington Post for over 25 years and has written several books on the civil rights era. He joined NPR in 1999 as host of the daily afternoon talk show Talk of the Nation. He then served as senior national correspondent for NPR, interviewing newsmakers as well as providing analysis of major events in interviews with the anchors for the newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Saturday and Sunday.

Naturally, the network is being bashed by conservatives — but not just conservatives — for a rush to judgment and bowing to the politically correct gods.

Jeffrey Goldberg is the national correspondent for the Atlantic.  On his blog early this morning, he criticized NPR for firing Williams — and writes that he criticized CNN when that network fired their editor responsible for Middle Eastern coverage, Octavia Nasr, after she posted a note on Twitter earlier this year expressing admiration for a late Lebanese cleric considered an inspiration for the Hezbollah militant movement.

Goldberg writes:

There's a larger trend here, the increasing tempo of journalist firings around the issues of Islam, terrorism,and Israel. There is Helen Thomas, of course, as well as Octavia Nasr, who was fired by CNN for praising the radical Shi'a Ayatollah Fadlallah. Helen Thomas is a ridiculous figure, and her comments touched on the Shoah, so I think my position on her firing remains, good riddance, but Nasr's firing seemed unjustified to me, and Williams's removal, so far at least, seems unjustified as well. More to come, undoubtedly.

Another television journalist fired in recent weeks was CNN's Rick Sanchez, who made comments about Jon Stewart and Jews on a Sirius-XM radio interview, and was gone the next day.

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