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Readers Respond: Is Juan Williams a Bigot?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

DiversityInc readers responded to a controversial topic: Juan Williams was fired from his job as an NPR news analyst after he made a remark about Muslims. Is he a bigot or was he just being honest? The White Guy responded here. NPR has apologized for the way it handled the situation, although it says the decision was the right one.

Want to weigh in? Submit your comment at the bottom of the original article.

Read these edited comments from DiversityInc readers on the subject:

Comment: Luke, kudos to you for pointing out how Vivian Schiller’s rationale for firing Mr. Williams doesn’t hold any water. I listen to NPR daily (I have since college) and am also a frequent FOX News viewer and have enjoyed Mr. Williams on both stations for many years. While I disagree with Juan on many issues (I am a libertarian/conservative) I have always respected both his deeply held convictions and his civility toward those who do not share his beliefs. If more people on both the right and the left exhibited Juan’s willingness to have a respectful and productive dialogue with those on the other side rather than resorting to partisan demagoguery, we would probably be able to accomplish much more as a nation. Nor do I think Juan Williams is a bigot. He was expressing what he recognized as his own prejudices. Very similar to Jesse Jackson saying that it is painful for him to “walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Without a frank, open and honest discussion of these types of prejudices and what causes them, they fester. Nine years after 9/11 amid escalating tensions surrounding Islam in America (the mosque near ground zero, the FL pastor who threatened to burn the Quran, etc.) we are overdue to have this dialogue as a nation. Ignoring something does not make it go away.

Comment: I never watch FOX and it surprised me to see Juan Williams in there. I understand where Williams was coming from. Flying back from Europe I saw a very large group traveling to Mecca for the Hajj and I mentally was relieved they weren’t on my flight. I made the automatic association of Muslim garb and suicide bombers.

Comment: The media does have a responsibility to maintain objectivity. When human nature or politics takes individual reporters away from that standard, it is to our collective disadvantage. The further the media removes itself from objectivity, the more disadvantaged we become as a society. We lose our ability to make informed judgments and instead swing from hyperbole to hysteria at the whim of whatever network we watch. When one watches ideologues like Limbaugh or even Jon Stewart, we must expect that objectivity is sacrificed at the expense of ratings and entertainment, but it is to our shame that we don’t demand more objectivity from our mainstream press. Williams’ comment was a reflection of his feelings. And, his feelings show his prejudice. Why should anyone be upset simply because someone chooses to honor a religious custom in their dress? What if he’d said he gets nervous if someone is wearing a yarmulke or bindi? His remark is only seen as tolerable because it plays into the mass hysteria and orchestrated distrust of Muslims. To tolerate it is to condone the message that Muslim dress alone is sufficient cause to distrust an individual, and that prejudice is acceptable—as long as it’s the way you feel.

Comment: It was a racist remark. You can sugar coat it all you want, it was a racist remark. He was condemning an entire race for the actions of a few. Just like it is done against Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. We’re in the 21st century technology wise, but many people’s minds are still stuck and concreted in the racist days of the 17th–20th century. Sad, because as long as this continues, America will continue to be a backwards nation. It’s too bad that with all the technology that we have, we still can’t get rid of racism and bigotry.

Comment: He is a bigot. I can’t believe a person of color would talk that way. Clearly it’s all about the money. Hate seems to be the cool thing now. No-bullying policies that we as a society want should apply to all its citizens. Any news network that supports a particular candidate or speaks hate speech on air should be given a monetary fine. I applaud for NPR having standards which very few news agencies have. All civil society should be on the same page … no bullying … no hate speech … it has to stop … it is destroying the core of our American values.

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30 Comments

  • Anonymous

    In this instance the NPR misjudged Juan Williams.
    He is not a racist and nor can his comment be considered so. He has an impeccable record and i enjoy listening to him irrespective of my standing.

    Hindsight is 20-20 so certainly the comment could have been phrased differently but being on a boundary doesnt imply that one has crossed it.

  • Anonymous

    That’s not the point. He shered his personal opinion at an inappropriate forum. The interview was a professional inquiry of what he thought not of his feelings.

  • Anonymous

    I was first shocked when I thought that NPR had infringed hypocritically on Williams’ free speech. But then I thought as a listener/viewer, I expect news folks to be impartial. If I want to hear about opinions, there are places to tune into for that. So to hear an otherwise respected news analysts (or anyone for that matter) preface a remark with “…I’m not a bigot, but…” what follows is never good. I agree that Williams’ comment about fearing folks in “Muslim garb” was biased about people that identify themselves through religious tradition. But more telling, Williams referenced the Times Square Bomber, a particularly inept terrorist; that said America is at war with the Muslims. Williams said “I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts”. Williams doesn’t seem astute enough to consider that terrorists don’t speak for Muslims, they speak for terrorists. He has fallen into the group that allows terrorists to frame the discussion and parrot their comments as facts and in my opinion that is dangerous. So there it is. Juan Williams is sending his opinion out, through his (chosen) new media home. If that is his message, I say, well done NPR, business as usual Fox.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t believe Mr. Williams is a bigot simply because he voiced his own thoughts and apprehensions about seeing persons in Muslim garb. Because he was apprehensive does not make him a bigot. I think that while his comments might be construed as bigotry, I also think that we have become obsessed with being too politically correct at times. How many of us, have seen a young person, sagging pants, long tee shirt approaching us or in our immediate space, and thought they looked liked a gang banger or thug? Is this not the way most people initially judge their fellow man from first impressions?
    Mr. Williams, I’m sure knows and has friends who are Muslim, and after taking the time to get to know them as individuals feels quite comfortable around them. He was merely making an observation based on our fears after 9/11, what many of us think, but are afraid to say.

  • Anonymous

    Nah, he’s not a bigot.

    I can say, without hesitation, that I, too, get nervous in a room full of Hispanic blacks. They look like they’re about to do something illegal or rob or kill or cheat somebody, you know?

  • Anonymous

    I do take issue with a couple of things surrounding the Williams debate. In Mr. Visconti’s response he stated that we have moved beyond objectivity in news reporting; I believe that is a problem. I don’t want somepne else’s opinion, just give me facts and I will determine if I am nervous when I see someone in Muslim garb or I see a group of young black males on a street corner.
    We seem to have abdicated our responsibility to think for ourselves and rather, would go with the opinion of a “so-called” noted individual.Mr Williams’ statement said to others, “it’s ok to feel that way”;, which I believe tool him out of the realm of credible objective journalism and placed him in the arena of condoning a racist notion. Mr. Williams was, apparently, warned before about making his comments personal while an employee of NPR. He made a choice and there were consequences resulting from that choice.
    I completely agree with NPR, This is one of the few news outlets left that gives me facts and allows me to analyze them myself.

  • Anonymous

    I have read and heard many views on Juan Williams comment and firing but I think what’s really missing is that though he may have these “personal” feelings, should he be allowed to express them in his work? Mr. Williams had the unique position of being employed by two distinctively different Brands and his dangerously derogatory racial comments (and possibly behaviors) were not consistent with the views of his former employer. Something that a lot of social media users have to keep in mind when employed or seeking employment. I am sure that if we dig deeper, there are other comments that Juan Williams has made in print and tv during his tenure at NPR that were also nail biters. I personally recall in 2008, he was asked by NPR to remove their name when appearing on FOX and similar cable news because of similar commentary, so I’m sure as an employee he is not that surprised by the outcome. I am just glad that NPR is finally standing up for its own Brand belief system.

  • Anonymous

    Bull! Yes it was a racist remark. He pretty much admitted that and was expressing his own dismay at the turn of events that has made millions scared. He probably wasn’t fired for his comment. He has been in disfavor at pbs for some time for several reasons. They had every right to fire him. As I see it, he should donate a few hundred thousand of his new 2 MILLION dollar contract at Fox to NPR. Withhout their action he would probably still be an occasional contributer to Fox. Their paying so much to him, after he left NPR is further proof of their bias. They are NOT a news channel. Going on Fox with his conservative views while still working at NPR is akin to a Red Sox pitcher, taking an occasional start for the Yankees. It just ain’t done.! I heard him on PBS today defending himself. He was not convincing. He was attempting to martyr himself and raise his ethics to an acceptable level. He should just shut up and spend Fox’s money.

  • Anonymous

    He is neither a bigot or a journalist. He is just ill-informed on religions as many of us are. Based on that alone, yes he should be fired from news journalism and move on to opinion and conjecture entertainment shows. His announcement of nervousness of seeing someone else dress or look differently from him is a stereotype, one that needs to be corrected on his end. He may need to take tolerance courses. I may be wrong, but it is my understanding that those that were involved with 9-11 may not have all been in Muslim attire. Many terrorists wear jeans and a t-shirt garb, and we can not tell them apart from the rest of the population as that is the way those that wish to do harm want to be. Even though Mr. Williams was not on NPR, he was going to be, and what he said outside of the network would have some reflection back on the network – either immediately or some point in time. There are two important things we as a people in America we need to address: One, we will have to be inclusive and tolerant of others and their religions. We should know from other races and religions (Blacks, Jews, Irish, Christian, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) that people are individuals. Individuals within these groups are good and bad so its not proper to blame an entire group for the instability of a few that want or are in power. Two, there were 19 people involved in the 9/11 bombings. Only 4 were Muslim. Four. Not a majority. So what were the other 16 and why isn’t Juan, etc. not speaking about them as terrorists as a whole? This is primarily about terrorism and the terrorists, not race or religion. And that Is why Juan, et al are wrong.

  • Anonymous

    My perception of Mr. Williams is a positive one. I do not feel he is a bigot nor a racist. How easily we use those terms believing we can see into peoples’ hearts and minds. For example, my son and I were in an elevator with two white Supremists who were trying to speak to my son. They were dressed in shiny boots, shorts and shirts with swztikas on them and a military type cap. We backed away. We were both very uncomfortable. How we feel may depend on the circumstance we find ourselves in at a certain time or place. Mr. Williams was honest about his feelings. I will watch him on FOX or whatever news media he may find himself on in the future. Honesty….how refreshing.

  • Anonymous

    The only reason he was fired was for NPR to show that it could process any supposed wrongs that even a Black man might make. Well they accomplished
    that even though the had to bend what he said around the corner. He only expressed the SOMETIMES fear incertain instances that all Black people would have in specific situations. He didn’t make it a general rule the way it was reported. That Juan is bigoted is more than ludicris. Shame on you NPR. It is obvious that you would use any reason to remove him fro NPR. Shame on you. Its obvious he could not be prejediced against his own. NRR knows this.,

  • Anonymous

    I believe the statements attributed to Juan Williams are bigoted. I’m also of the opinion that Mr. Williams is not really fearful of seeing a Muslim person in full Muslim dress boarding an air plane. Mr. Williams is a smart, educated, and most likely knew the kind of controversy his remarks would cause, including his dismissal from NPR. The terrorist who caused the disasterous damages of 9/11 were all dressed in “normal” American clothes, therefore, his reasons for a panic mode was something manufactured to promote fear and bigotry to his audience. Mr. Williams, a highly educated African American is among a small percentage of Blacks who have carved out a rather lucrative living by joining the right wing conservative movement. It is not surprising to see him involved in bigoted statements, such as the latest. It is also not surprising to see Fox News hire him before the ink dried on his dismissal notice.

  • Anonymous

    Heck yes HE IS…and he makes me nervous!! With that kind of thoughtless commentary he should be banned and blackisted!!

  • Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly with NPR’s decision to fire Juan Williams.

    First of all, none of us know the details of William’s emploment contract or working relationship with NPR. We are surmising. Like other commercial employers, NPR is responsible to its stakeholders — the millions of people who contribute their money to help NPR meet approximately 98% of budget needs. In commercial TV, the broadcaster is beholding to its viewers, its sponsors and its shareholders. As we have seen in the past, when those three constituencies are unhappy, such as after Don Imus made his infamous remarks, something has to give.

    Few people recall that earlier this summer, NPR demanded that Williams stop using NPR as a part of his credentials when appearing on FOX News. The NPR constituents had long been upset with Williams participation in a variety of shows on FOX. Notably, Williams was present during a long segment on Bill O’Reilly regarding the late Dr. Tiller who was assassinated early in January 2010.

    Apparently Williams was given multiple warnings about the effect of his FOX News appearances. This seems to be well in line with what any other employer would do. It was not Williams’ speech that got him in trouble, but his disregard of the valid concerns of his employer.

    As to the direct comments Williams made, I would have to say, “yes, Williams is a bigot.” Persons who wear clothing reflecting their religious affiliation — be it Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Sihk, Amish, Mennonite, Mormon or any other religion — have the full right to do so. Their dress is part of protected speech or free expression, as well as the free and unfettered practice of their religion. While Williams is entitled to his feelings, his nervousness or other attitudes, so are they.

    Mr. Williams is a journalist of long-standing. He is a wordsmith who understands the power of specific words and the feelings they can inflame. His speech on O’Reilly, how ever well-intended betrayed him. He could have chosen a different word other than “garb.” Regardless of the “lesson” he thought he was sharing, his setup was repugnant. Williams could have just as easily conveyed what it feels like to be on the receiving end of broad brush bigotry: that all black males are violent, sex-crazed criminals, for example, as O’Reilly and company have frequently suggested. Instead Williams chose to smear Muslims.

    Finally, given that Williams received a $2 million dollar. 3-year contract immediately after NPR fired him, I believe this was all an elaborate set-up by Williams and FOX to create the firing, incite the FOX base and promote Williams’ new affiliate. Further, given his new-found right-wing rhetoric against NPR, one can only surmise that this brouhaha is a brouha-fake. .

  • Anonymous

    Whenever someone says ” I’m not a bigot, BUT “, you can safely bet the next words out of their mouth are bigoted. First off the 911 terrorists wore western clothing not Muslim attire. Nor did the shoebomber or the underwear bomber wear Muslim clothing. Using Juan’s reasoning he should have been freightened by anyone wearing typical American clothing. If we take NPR at their word, Juan Williams firing was due to a series of incidences.Could his firing have been handled better, absolutely it could and should have been. However,Juan Williams has no one to blame but Juan Williams for his termination. Juan gave voice to his prejudices on a network where he felt comfortable doing so.. Sometimes intelligent people say stupid things.

  • Anonymous

    Is Juan Williams a bigot? Well, to be sure he is ignorant regarding expressing his feelings in response to Muslims. He’s entitled to his feelings. Should NPR fired him? Yes, according to their standards, Juan crossed the line. Besides, I don’t think Juan is too heartbroken. He still has employment with FAKE, uh, FOX news. Too bad he made the choice to express his ignorance. He could have presented it as a rhetorical question to get the discussion going. I’m sure hindsight it 20-20.

  • The people who are falling back on the First Amendment argument are the very ones who wouldn’t have the guts to say what Juan Williams said. The only reason they’re supporting him is because they figured that, since Juan Williams is a black man, it’s safe for him to make a statement like that. Mr. Williams found out that hard way that it isn’t. NPR’s method of firing him was ham-handed and wrong-headed, and I’m glad they copped to that. But the fact remains, Juan Williams should be gone from their air.

  • I think NPR is totally in the wrong on this one. Juan Williams is NOT a bigot. I have travelled extensively and I agree it is a moment of tension when you see people dressed in traditional Muslim attire in an airport. I was recently in Germany during the terrorist threat a couple weeks ago and there were posters of the wanted men in the airport. I must admit that most of us in the airport were looking suspiciously at many of the obviously Islamic families thinking, “is this a picture of you or someone you know?!” It isn’t fair… but neither is terrorism. Life is not always politically correct… sometimes you just have to be real.

  • Definition of BIGOT
    : a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance Miriam Webster Dictionary..

    By definition is Mr. Williams a bigot?

  • Is it ok and justified for me to associate every white mother with Susan Smith? Can I associate every white male with Tim McVey? I am just curious at where the line is drawn? When did we come to a point in modern history where ignorance is accepted?

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