It was a mistake for NPR to fire Juan Williams because of something he said while serving as a commentator on Fox News. It was a bigger mistake to hire Williams in the first place.
Yesterday, I heard part of an interview with Williams as he touted his new book, "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," in which he explains that he thinks he was really fired because of his association with Fox News, not because of anything in particular that he said there. As an article in Politico points out, Williams' main contention these days is that NPR is elitist and white. And, he argues, as the subtitle of his book indicates, that it is NPR who has a problem with honest debate, not him.
Well, three points leap to mind. First, an assault suggests violence. Mr. Williams was fired he was not tarred and feathered.
Second, I watch Fox News almost every night and, yes, sometimes there is an honest debate but it is more likely that the debate there is dishonest. Watch the video from any of Sean Hannity's shows this week and you must conclude that the man is really stupid, which he clearly is not, or he is willfully denying basic economic facts. If you think Mr. Hannity is involved in anything except propaganda, ask yourself this: Hannity says we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling or compromise the House GOP budget, but wouldn't honesty require him to point out that the House-approved budget, Paul Ryan's Path to prosperity, also requires a raise in the debt ceiling? NPR has an interest in the integrity of its brand and, yes, associating with certain Fox news personalities compromises that brand.
Third, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you heard anything except the most pedestrian conventional wisdom issue from Juan Williams? He shouldn't have been fired from NPR because he said something impolitic. I do think he should have been offered the chance to quit Fox or quit NPR. But, I also have no idea why he was hired in the first place and paid for all those years when his commentary is so stale and boring. And, why would anyone buy his book?