National Public Radio is trying to distance itself from staff commentator Juan Williams and Fox News after dozens of its angry liberal listeners complained about his appearances on Bill O’Reilly’s show.
Williams, a former Washington Post reporter and award-winning author of several books and a film about the civil rights movement, has sparked recent outrage over his comments about Michelle Obama, according to Politico.
Now NPR is asking that its logo be removed from beneath his name whenever he appears on Fox.
NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard recently devoted her entire column to reader complaints about Williams, whom she described as the biggest “lightning rod” among all of NPR's staff.
“Last year, 378 listeners emailed me complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox,” Shepard wrote. “The listener themes are similar: Williams ‘dishonors NPR.’ He's an ‘embarrassment to NPR.’ ‘NPR should severe their relationship with him.’”
By comparison, she added, “listeners sent 13 e-mails about Steve Inskeep, 8 about Mara Liasson and 6 about Cokie Roberts — other NPR personalities who I often get emails about.”
On a Jan. 26 appearance on O’Reilly’s show (see below), Williams explained that Vice President Joe Biden could be a liability for President Obama. But so could his wife. That triggered a firestorm in the liberal blogosphere.
"Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going," said Williams. "If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine [Ham, a conservative blogger] is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."
But O’Reilly, defending the first lady, interjected: “She’s not going to do that. She’s not going to do that.”
A Fox representative responded to Politico: "We were actually doing NPR a favor by even plugging them but we have no problem dropping the mention on the chyron along with their exposure to millions of O’Reilly Factor viewers."
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