Juan Williams gets nervous when people in Muslim garb board his flight.
Is that admission wrong because it reinforces a stereotype?
Or is this a good thing because it forces us to deal with it?
I can't say I'm immune to a similar sentiment even though I understand it is a gut fear instead of one that has been rationally calculated.
It is an indication that the terrorists are winning on at least one level. Osama Bin Laden wants us to be suspicious of Muslims and act accordingly. And that empowers the most radical elements within their ranks, which in turn empowers the Islamophobes. Each feeds off the other.
It's all about widening the chasm.
I don't think you narrow it by pretending it isn't there.
And so I think Williams performed a public service on "The O'Reilly Factor."
Williams used his liberal credentials to take an issue out of the closet, something a lot of us felt but were not supposed to acknowledge. It was liberal catharsis, sort of like Bill Cosby's comments on the self-inflicted failure of so many inner-city youth and their parents.
Allowing things to fester is not healthy. Covering your ears and walking off the stage — like Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar did when O'Reilly blamed 9-11 on Muslims — is not healthy.
As abhorrent as these views are to liberals, the majority of Americans relate to them. This discussion needs to take place openly and often. Otherwise it festers and blows up like it did at the so-called "Ground Zero mosque.''
This is where NPR blew it.
By firing Williams, NPR fed into the stereotype of the liberal media quashing politically incorrect thought. The opinion not only is wrong, but just bringing it up is an indication of ignorance, exploitation or moral failure.
It was telling when the first reaction from NPR's CEO, Vivian Schiller, was to say Williams should keep such views between himself and his psychiatrist or publicist. It can't be a legitimate opinion. He either must be clinically paranoid or trying to get attention.
NPR quickly backtracked on Schiller's comments and now spins this by saying commentary isn't allowed by analysts, a distinction with blurred lines at best.
Commentary certainly is allowed for "Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor, whose show is broadcast on NPR stations. He's written that Republicans are "the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons … Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.''
Keillor writes his opinions in newspaper columns. I suppose the rationale is that he does not work for the news operation. The reality is he's on NPR, and perception is everything.
Everybody knows that the NPR brass have long resented Williams' appearances on Fox. NPR listeners have complained that Fox is using him to gain credibility in pushing an extreme agenda.
NPR political reporter Mara Liasson also has gotten heat for contributing to a political roundtable on Fox. She does a good job, it is an intelligent discussion in a dignified format, yet NPR reportedly wants her out.
I haven't seen any complaints about NPR legal affairs reporter, Nina Totenberg, appearing on MSNBC, which is little more than the liberal flip side of Fox.
The only difference is that Fox wins the ratings war because it is better executed and marketed. That Fox quickly signed Juan Williams to a contract is more proof of this.
Mike Thomas can be reached at 407-420-5525 or email@example.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun