An armada of lawmakers, political figures, media outlets, and public opinion is forming to yank public funding not only from National Public Radio but also from the Public Broadcasting System for firing veteran political analyst Juan Williams even faster than NPR itself dumped Williams.
The backlash is coming not only in the way of legislation, editorials, and officials’ statements but also a public opinion polls showing that nearly half of Americans believe NPR was wrong in sacking Williams Wednesday over comments the longtime commentator made about Muslims on Fox TV Monday night.
Williams voiced his opinion on Bill O’Reilly’s show as O’Reilly discussed his own appearance last week on ABC's "The View," during which Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set to protest comments he made on Muslims.
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"Where am I going wrong here, Juan?" O'Reilly asked.
The 56-year-old Williams responded with the lament that today’s overemphasis on political correctness can interfere with dialog and reality.
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot,” said Williams, who also is a Fox TV commentator. “You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
The fact that NPR summarily fired Williams, especially when others on NPR have made comments criticizing evangelical and other conservative groups, propelled the groundswell of opposition from the right and the left alike, including:
- A Washington Times editorial that proclaims: “This experiment in taxpayer-supported broadcasting must be put out to pasture.”
- Sarah Palin, who declared on her Facebook page today: "If NPR is unable to tolerate an honest debate about an issue as important as Islamic terrorism, then it’s time for 'National Public Radio' to become 'National Private Radio.' It’s time for Congress to defund this organization."
- South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said he plans to introduce legislation defunding NPR. NPR doesn’t get federal money directly, but rather, its pipeline is through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a quasi-governmental agency that received a congressional appropriation of $430 million this year. He also plans to seek an end to taxpayer subsidies for public television.
- House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the GOP will add cutting funding for NPR to its "YouCut" program, which asks constituents what federal programs they would want to slash.Cantor said NPR's firing of Williams is "chipping away at the fundamental American freedoms of speech and expression.NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams not only undermines that, it shows an ignorance of the fact that radical Islam and the terrorists who murder in its name scare people of all faiths, religions, and beliefs."
- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also calls for cutting off NPR’s funding, and says he won’t do interviews on the network. “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as a purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left,” Huckabee said.
- Media watchdog Brent Bozell demanded a congressional investigation into the firing.
- Washington Post Media Critic Howard Kurtz, reflecting on the fallout in a blog at The Daily Beast: “It’s tempting to say that the right’s reaction to the Juan Williams firing is just a tad overblown. But it’s not. This was a blunder of enormous proportions. Even many liberals — Donna Brazile, Joan Walsh, Whoopi Goldberg — are castigating National Public Radio for throwing Williams overboard. PR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller — dubbed a ‘pinhead’ by O’Reilly — made matters worse by suggesting that Williams needs psychiatric attention. She later apologized.”
- A national Poll Position public opinion survey found that 46 percent of those polled said NPR was wrong to fire Williams, 19 percent said it was right, and 35 percent had no opinion.
The firing accelerated speculation that liberal NPR patron George Soros may have influenced NPR’s decision to fire Williams, who, ironically, is considered a liberal voice at NPR and Fox. Soros has made large donations to NPR and other left-leaning media over the years.
Coincidentally, the firing occurred on the same day it was revealed that the billionaire currency titan Soros is giving $1 million to liberal Media Matters to stanch the burgeoning popularity of Fox News.
Criticizing NPR’s list to the left, DeMint issued a statement saying, "Once again we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree. The incident with Mr. Williams shows that NPR is not concerned about providing the listening public with an honest debate of today's issues, but rather with promoting a one-sided liberal agenda."
DeMint noted that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service, has received nearly $4 billion in federal money since 2001.
"The country is over $13 trillion in debt, and Congress must find ways to start trimming the federal budget to cut spending," DeMint said. "NPR and PBS get about 15 percent of their total budget through federal funding, so these programs should be able to find a way to stand on their own. With record debt and unemployment, there's simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize a liberal programming they disagree with."
NPR’s liberal entanglements fly in the face of objective journalism at what should be an impartial outlet because of the money it receives from public coffers.
Now, the Washington Times’ editorial opines: “On the bright side, no one can ever again defend NPR as being fair and balanced.”
In addition, the editorial says, “Mr. Williams has a reputation as a thoughtful liberal whose views go beyond the usual Democratic Party-approved talking points, and he's earned deserved respect beyond those who were predisposed to agree with him. But it was no secret that NPR management was uncomfortable with Mr. Williams' appearances on Fox News. In 2009, the taxpayer-subsidized operation demanded that Mr. Williams stop being identified as a "senior correspondent for NPR" when appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor." This incident was a useful pretext for management to engage in some ideological cleansing. The firing looks even more suspicious coming as it does hard on the heels of a $1.8 million grant from ultraliberal sock puppeteer George Soros.”
Continuing its assessment of the situation, the Times editorial states: “News organizations have a right to adopt whatever editorial positions they want, but NPR receives a chunk of its budget from the federal government, and more importantly wields the imprimatur of being an essential public resource, which anchors its other fundraising efforts. NPR's persistent liberal bias raises the question of why the government is in the business of promoting such enterprises.
“The rationale that created public broadcasting more than 40 years ago — the then lack of available educational and public service programming — has been overcome by technological innovations unforeseen at the time. Blue-state America has MSNBC for news; it doesn't need NPR. When the new Congress begins the process of cutting wasteful government programs, public broadcasting should be high on the list.”
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