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Don't be a crybaby

Yesterday I listened to Juan Williams talk on Diane Rehm’s show about his abrupt dismissal from National Public Radio, and last night The Sun’s David Zurawik filed an article after interviewing Mr. Williams, who said yesterday, “I’m not even sure what I did wrong.”

Perhaps I can be of help. The remark that got him fired, the proximate cause, that seeing people in “Muslim garb” on airplanes made him nervous, was, without regard for journalistic ethics, richly stupid. Someone’s comment that he understood Juan Williams because ever since Timothy McVeigh, the sight of white men in trucks has made him nervous, which might help you put Mr. Williams’s remark in perspective.

So Mr. Williams might at least express some mild regret for his minor contribution to anti-Muslim bigotry.

But what comes through most clearly in his public statements is that Mr. Williams feels wronged, shabbily treated by NPR, and eager for our sympathy for his plight. You will recall that on the afternoon of his dismissal from NPR, Mr. Williams signed a $2 million contract with Fox News. As someone once abruptly dismissed from a media job and reduced to scratching around for freelance work for twelve months, I am not soaking my pillow with tears over the injury to Mr. Williams’s pride. Look around and you can see many people turned out of their jobs for reasons less compelling.

My own sentiment is that Mr. Williams might benefit from a little manning up. Instead of touring the outlets and venues to whinge about how mean NPR was to him, he could comport himself with a little more dignity. After all, NPR, whatever the merits of its dismissal of Mr. Williams, has taken a huge hit for the gracelessness of the manner in which it sacked him. He has admirers and partisans and advocates. Let them manage the clamor.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:57 AM | | Comments (15)


Yes, but how could he possibly assume the mantle of conservative punditry without being able to claim victimization at the hands of those mean ol' liberals?

Martyrdom is most seemly, and effective, when it is dignified.

Have you seen this?

I agree with your analysis of Juan Williams' weak self-defense. He messed up (not the first time) and NPR was correct to call him on it.
I was also impressed with Diane's interview of Juan, her old friend. She pushed him and was relentless in making him talk about his choices. Her good work revealed that the criticism of him by NPR was appropriate and timely.

Don't Juan Williams' conservative apologists support the right of companies to fire employees at any time, for any (or no) reason? And would Williams support a commentator who said seeing young black men on the street made him fear being robbed?

Absolutely, Jim. If he said it when he wasn't on NPR.

I also would defend him if he said he was afraid of Christians because one or two radicals killed abortion doctors.

Agree with him? No. Defend his right to say it? Definitely.

If you had seen the entire conversation between Mr O'Reilly and Mr Williams, you would have the context you require before jumping down Mr Williams' throat. Both he and Mr O'Reilly have pointed this out until I'm sure they are weary of talking about it. Mr Williams has worked for FOX as a contributor for several years: if NPR had given him the choice of "them or us" when he first signed with FOX, that would have been that. They waited several years, however, until he said something on FOX that NPR didn't like and decided that they'd had it. Although any company can fire any one for any reason - which conservatives support - the manner in which they did it, and the reason they gave for doing it, was unprofessional and tacky. And incidentally, some of NPR's troika (Tottenberg, Roberts) have given their "opinions" veiled thinly as analysis on air other than NPR: they still have their positions in both places. This isn't the first time NPR has made a terrible decision that has brought them national attention: the other occasions have been for financial and legal misconduct. This time, however, their liberal and at times sanctimonius attitude is now writ large. These are doubtless the same people who descry taxi drivers who refuse to stop for young black men dressed in black with hoods over their faces, but move away from the same men when they see them on the streets of Washington. I've never thought of Mr Williams as particularly conservative: in fact, he seems to be an independent (Oh no!) thinker, which probably is why FOX hired him. This to me is simply typical NPR behavior which comes as no surprise to me. I worked for them,both locally and in Washington, for years. They really do deserve the 'bad press' they get.

Captain Jenkins was (by report) neither seemly nor dignified, yet his (possibly bogus) martyrdom propelled his country into a pointless war. The reactionaries' efforts rely on people becoming so outraged they forget to think.

Who is Capt Jenkins when he's at home. Does he work for NPR as well?

Chap with the ear. Or perhaps not.

Captain Jenkins? Who that?

The War of Jenkins' Ear.

It amuses me that Patricia the Terse's comment is the longest. I am easily amused.

Cheap Jim: Quite right about Jenkins's Ear. Somewhere in this blog or one of the others PtT wrote an explanation of what she thinks "terse" means.

I'm amused as well as annoyed by "young black men dressed in black with hoods over their faces". In this town, all kinds of people dress in black, and I have never seen anyone with a hood over his or her face, ever, except maybe in the Halloween parade. Hoods on their heads, yes.

The hoods on their jackets or sweatshirts are pulled down so far in front that they are over their faces. If the best you can do is pick nits, you also ought to have a nice cuppa. The hooded look is part of the uniform, usually black or some other dark color. I didn't design it: I merely observe.

Also, I inadvertently accorded Nina the Totenberg an extra "t" in her surname. As my mother's side of the family was Welsh originally, I can afford to be generous with consonants.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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