After NPR fired Juan Williams, he feared Fox News would fire him as well. With his credibility called into question, he thought he would be considered damaged goods.
Four hours after being fired, Williams appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. After the show, Hannity noticed that Williams looked upset and asked if he was Ok.
When Williams said NPR had fired him, “Hannity put his arm around me, and he said, ‘Take it easy, slow down. You are going to be all right,’” Williams tells Newsmax TV on publication of his new book “Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate.”
It was now past 10 p.m., but Hannity called Bill Shine at home. The Fox News executive vice president of programming was asleep. Hannity asked his wife to wake him up.
The next morning, as a result of that call, Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, asked Williams to meet with him.
When Williams walked in, “Ailes looks up, and he says, ‘We can’t have you working here,’” Williams says in his home in a largely black section of Washington.
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“I was like what, because I hadn’t slept. I was anxious. I was nervous. It was one of those moments where you think, gosh, I worked for a long time to get to this point in my career and, you know, I got kids. Still one in college in senior year, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Laughing, Ailes asked Williams to sit down.
“Then he says to me, ‘We’re going to renew your contract, and you’re going to have a bigger role here at Fox,’” Williams recalls. The new contract made up for the income Williams had just lost.
Reading Williams’ book, you wonder if he is talking about America or about the old Soviet Union. When Williams interviewed President Bush, he tried to graciously soften a question by saying that Americans pray for him but don’t understand some of his actions or policies. Ellen Weiss, NPR’s senior vice president for news, criticized Williams for the reference to prayer because she claimed it meant he was soft on Bush.
NPR management did not like Williams’ previous book “Enough,” which criticized what he called phony black leaders and a black “culture of failure.” One NPR news executive told him privately that “having on staff a black man with conservative social views who was personal friends with conservatives infuriated NPR’s old guard.”
The executive confided that NPR had wanted to fire Williams for years.
“I did not fit their view of how a black person thinks — my independence of thought, my willingness to listen to a range of views, and my strong journalistic credentials be damned,” Williams observes.
NPR’s agenda is evident in a Washington Post opinion piece that ran yesterday by its former ombudsman Alicia Shepard. She said that in 2007, the Pentagon wanted to pull NPR’s credentials in Iraq after Williams “incorrectly” said on Fox that Gen. David Petraeus “had asked the White House for permission to go into Iran.”
A quick check reveals that was a misrepresentation of what Williams had said on the Oct. 21, 2007 Fox News Sunday show. He said that “Gen. Petraeus has been saying he wants the ability, if necessary, to cross the border from Iraq into Iran to stop the idea of weapons flowing from Iran into that theater.”
Journalists are constantly reporting that the Pentagon has contingency plans to invade Iran and any other country that could be a threat. For the Pentagon not to do that would be news. Williams subsequently reported Petraeus’ denial on the air.
The fact that Shepard had to reach back to 2007 to claim an error and then baldly exaggerated what Williams actually said to the point where a correction is now in order shows how desperate NPR management has been to besmirch unfairly Williams’ reputation.
As noted in my story "The Juan Williams I Know
," Williams is a fair-minded journalist whose views run the political gamut, a rarity these days.
In fact, Williams tells me, he comes across as a bit more liberal than he really is because on a show like Hannity’s, “Part of my job is to engage with Sean. It’s not to present nuances of my point of view, but to say, ‘Hey, Sean you’re wrong on this,’ or ‘Where is your attention to the other side of the story?’”
The fact that Williams appeared at all on Fox News infuriated NPR executives. Even though he often disagrees with him, they said appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s “The Factor” “legitimizes” him and his show.
“NPR executives would say things like, ‘You’re surrounded by more conservatives at Fox,’ and I would say, ‘Yeah, but I’m surrounded by more liberals at NPR,’” Williams says.
“They would say, ‘Well, aren’t things edited and slanted at Fox?’ and I would say, ‘Listen, I don’t see that,” Williams says. “In fact, I’m there, and I say what I want to say. On the contrary, here at NPR you guys are always saying let’s not say this. You are editing things to fit your prescribed view of the world. I don’t see that at Fox.’”
Indeed, Fox has a rule that for any political debate, both Democrat and Republican guests must be invited to appear.
The smoldering dispute over what Williams could or could not say became public when he said on Bill O’Reilly’s “The Factor” what most Americans, including many Muslims, feel: that when getting on an airplane and seeing passengers dressed in Muslim garb, he feels apprehension.
After checking with NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, Weiss called him around 5 p.m. to fire him. She said Williams had violated NPR’s standards for editorial commentary.
Weiss 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.
Nor did she refer to the fact 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.”
When Ailes met with Williams at 10 a.m. the day after he had been fired, he said he didn’t want him to have to go home to his wife Delise and tell her he had lost money because of NPR’s actions. In the Newsmax TV interview, Williams tells for the first time how he had to tell Delise he had been fired.
Her response, she tells me, was to use a pejorative swear word to describe NPR executives. As noted in my story "Juan Williams’ Wife: NPR Liberals are Hypocrites
," she had stopped going to NPR social gatherings because she found they consisted only of whites who treated her as if she did not exist. In contrast, she says, Fox News gatherings are racially diverse, and she feels welcomed.
“I love Delise!” a Fox News contributor emailed me after the Newsmax story appeared.
At L2 Lounge in Georgetown last week, Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Shannon Bream and others gave Juan a glittering book party. There, despite often divergent views, Fox News contributors Charles Krauthammer, Stephen Hayes, and Baier all spoke, expressing admiration for the man who thought his career had come to an end.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," is to be released on Aug. 2. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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