Sunday, November 14, 2010


Recently, National Public Radio fired Juan Williams and MSNBC suspended Keith Oberman. Williams was fired for a comment made about Muslims and Oberman was suspendedfor making politcal contributions without approval as I understand.

I get anxious anytime a commentator is sanctioned for commenting. In Oberman's case, he was suspended for making political contributions. Giving someone money for their election is a form of comment. it means you approve of their politics. Wiliams was fired because he said in an interview he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on an airplane he is boarding.

There are two issues here and they need to be separated. Firing williams for his comments about Muslims was wrong. He is paid to give his opinion. His opinion was silly and insensitive. He stereotyped all Muslims in a way he would virulently object to if it was applied to African Americans. If a prominent pundit has said he is concerned anytime he walks in Washington DC because of all the young black men walking the streets, Williams would be the first to attack the prejudice reflected and the broad brush used to tar an entire population. William's opinion reflected poorly on him and made him look like he was pandering to his friends at Fox. However, it was not a firing offense. If you hire someone to give their opinion and then punish them when they express themselves, you send the message they were hired to only offer views of which you approve. I didnt approve of the firing of Don Imus or Bob Grant Or even Michael Savage for their opinions. They did what they were hired to do.

Obermann's suspension also makes no sense. By contributing to some progressive politicians's campaign, Oberman was not being a hypocrite, nor was he acting in a way contrary to his public persona. Oberman is a progressive and he used his own private money to support other progressives. Is anyone surprised? Has he somehow undercut his credibility with his audience? Recent reports have confirmed Sean Hannity gives money to support regressive candidates of his choosing and Fox has no objections. Why does MSNBC? Are you surprised or outraged by either man's actions?

There is another issue however. NPR issued a statement claiming it has been warning Williams to stop offering opinions on other media outlets. NPR's president says this is just the latest incident and Williams had been aware of their objections. I have to confess I didnt understand this argument. He has been a commentator on Fox for years. He isn't very progressive. IN fact, he always struck me as naive to let himself be used by Fox for political cover as the token representative of the "other" side of the political spectrum. Like Alan Combs, Williams has always been a weak representative of the progressive case and is regularly steam rolled by his Fox colleagues. NPR seemed to have a problem with Williams on Fox. They told him so. They told him not to continue to give his opinions on that or any other place. Williams ignored this and was fired. NPR had every right to contract with williams and impose conditions. Williams ignored them and was terminated. I have no problem with NPR's actions at all. The first amendment doesnt guarantee you wont suffer consequences for your opinion. the fact Williams immediately signed a$2 million deal with Fox, suggests he may have done all of this on purpose.

I dont know what Oberman's contract says. If there is a provision prohibiting political contributions without approval he needs to honor the contract. He is not new at this. If he didnt like the provision he shouldnt have signed the deal. If that is why he was suspended, I have no problem with that either.

NPR fired Juan Williams because his opinion was politically embarrassing to them. It was a cowardly act. It was done to appease some constituency, although I'm not sure which one. If they didnt like him on Fox, they shouldnt have hired him at NPR. They knew they would take serious heat if they dropped him for being on Fox and voicing controversial opinions. They are sensitive to being attacked by regressives in Congress who threaten their funding. They seized on a comment he made to justify letting him go. Williams thanked them al the way to the bank and is now a darling on Fox.

MSNBC's suspension of Oberman smacks of corporate ass covering. Once again, I cant figure out whose ox he gored. Comcast is in the middle of buying NBC/MSNBC. They need Congressional approval and approval of the Justice Department and maybe they worried Oberman's actions threatened the merger in some way. Regressives hate him and congressional regressives really hate him. If he was suspended to curry favor with regressives on the hill, we should all be very worried. What else will Comcast do to score political points?

If you hire people to give opinions, dont be outraged when they give them. Firing them is morally wrong. However, if an employee violates his or her contract on purpose, he or she cannot be surprised if sanctions follow. IN both Willilams and Oberman's case, I dont know which scenario is accurate, but I have my suspicions. Do you?

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