It’s not too late for National Public Radio to rescue its reputation in the Juan Williams matter.
The organization ought to admit it overreacted last week when it canceled its contract with Williams over a remarks he had made concerning how he reacted to Muslims on airplanes.
If NPR now offered to sign Williams up again, he would probably say no thanks.
But such an offer would show that the network has come to its senses where broadcast commentary is concerned. It would also show that it can stand up to outside pressure from various ethnic or religious lobbies.
What Williams had said — that seeing fellow passengers on airplanes in Muslim garb made him nervous — was not a bigoted remark.
He didn’t say that his visceral reaction made any kind of sense. (If someone had a terrorist design on an airplane, surely he would dress more or less inconspicuously, and not in a way that made him stand out.)
All this came up in a panel discussion on Fox News in conjunction with the flap over Bill O’Reilly’s remark that on 9/11, “Muslims killed us.” Everybody with any sense realizes that he didn’t mean “all Muslims” or even “most Muslims.” He meant the radical Islamists who planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks.
So there was no reason for anyone — including the two panelists on “The View” who walked out — to take offense at his remark.
What Williams said in this connection was even less open to the charge that he had uttered some kind of bigoted remark.
Williams was relating a personal experience , and anybody who has listened to him for years knows that he’s a sensible guy without a touch of bigotry in him.
His bosses at NPR know this too. In letting him go anyway, they bowed to groups that complained. And in the process they harmed the reputation of their network. So unless they find a way to undo the damage, it’s something to keep in mind the next time the local public stations do their fundraisers so they can pay their bill to NPR. (hh)