Fired NPR analyst Juan Williams is usually labeled a liberal. But I know a different Juan Williams.
I’ve been privileged to be a friend of Williams since the late 1970s, when we were both Washington Post reporters.
We would have lunch together and continued to socialize with our wives and kids after we both left the paper.
As a friend, it makes no difference to me whether Williams is a liberal, a conservative, or none of the above. But the fact is, Williams is no liberal.
If you doubt that, read his book “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America — and What We Can Do About It.” The book attacks Democrats and black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for promoting a “culture of failure” among blacks.
In an interview after the book was published, Williams told me that the Democratic Party “has not delivered in terms of protecting the poor, minorities in the country, on basic items, like education for your children, safety in our streets, making sure that you have the opportunity to have an economic foothold on the ladder of upward mobility.”
That is why “there’s a need for a strong Republican voice among minorities, that’s why you need competition of ideas,” he said. “The one-party system has failed the poor and minority in this country.”
Contrary to characterizations in the media, President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act is a way to help blacks help themselves, Williams said. With his Cabinet selections, Bush set an example of what blacks can achieve, he noted.
“You know, for all the talk about a Cabinet that looks like America under Clinton, Bush has a better record of diversity in his Cabinet than Clinton did,” he said.
After his book came out in 2007, Williams was labeled a “black Ann Coulter” by Al Sharpton, and a turncoat by black leaders and media personalities.
PBS host Tavis Smiley “was going on about how I’m demeaning black people, which I find so incredibly stupid,” Williams told me.
To be sure, Williams usually takes the liberal side on Fox News’ round table discussions, often contributing points of view that add credibility to his argument. But on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News show, he often sides with conservatives.
I once asked him why he comes across as a liberal in discussions on Fox News when I know him as leaning more to the conservative side. He said, in effect, that someone has to do it, meaning he is simply being a good commentator.
In similar fashion, Bill O’Reilly will stand up for President Obama at times when it’s clear he has no use for any of his policies.
That contrasts with NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, who apparently cannot tolerate divergent viewpoints that conflict with liberal ideology. Yet the feeling of apprehension that Williams described on O’Reilly’s show upon seeing Muslims boarding his plane is one that is understandably shared by most Americans. Muslim heritage is one factor the FBI initially takes into consideration when evaluating potential threats.
In firing Williams for making that comment, Schiller ignored the fact that Williams went on to say that we must distinguish between moderate Muslims and Muslim terrorists and protect the rights of the vast majority of Muslims who are peace-loving.
Schiller’s hypocrisy becomes clear when you consider that NPR is perfectly happy to have correspondents like Nina Totenberg on the air when they make outrageous left-leaning comments, such as her observation that if there is “retributive justice,” Jesse Helms will “get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.”
Williams is invited to the top Washington parties. He has been treated as royalty by both the Bush and Obama White Houses. He has never let it go to his head. He continues to live in a largely black neighborhood of Washington with his wife Delise, a former social worker. The daughter of a doctor, she is as sharp as he is.
Even though Williams will be making a lot more money now with a new Fox News contract, he teared up when O’Reilly mentioned that Williams had worked for NPR for 10 years.
For all his fame, Williams displayed vulnerability when he became particularly incensed at Schiller’s snide remark that his comments should have been “between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist.”
Schiller picked on the wrong person. Williams is one of the most respected journalists in Washington. In firing Williams, she managed to infuriate Democrats, Republicans, and the media. When Republicans dominate Congress next year, they will begin defunding NPR and its affiliates.
Back in 2006, Williams’ son, Tony, ran for Washington’s city council from Ward 6 as a conservative Republican. For an item for my Newsmax magazine column, I asked Juan for his reaction.
“Initially, it was a surprise to everybody in our family,” Williams said. “But the whole idea was to raise a young man who was empowered to make his own choices in life.”
That could be said of him as well. Williams is not afraid to call them as he sees them, and journalism is richer for it.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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