“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” he said. “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’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
These words got veteran NPR journalist Juan Williams fired. You can read the full story “NPR fires Juan Williams over anti-Muslim remarks” from The Washington Post. You can also read William’s perspective.
I am not passing judgement on Mr. Williams for I know too little about the case. I am however pointing out the power of words. Words can get you fired.
As a journalist, you make a living off your words. Your words tell stories and share information. When your words don’t match with the the standards of your organization — they can get you fired.
According to The Washington Post, NPR found that Williams words, “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
On NPR.org, Williams rebutts that NPR, “Used an honest statement of feeling as the basis for a charge of bigotry to create a basis for firing me. Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.”
Strong, or should I say, Powerful, words on both sides.