Williams Defends Muslim Remark, Calls Firing ‘Unfair’

Posted October 24, 2010 at 9:23am

Updated: 1:11 p.m.

Political analyst Juan Williams on Sunday accused his former employer NPR of firing him over his role as a Fox News contributor, and called his ouster “unfair” and “regrettable.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday’s” roundtable with other journalists, Williams said his ouster was about more than just the comment he made about his fears about Muslims wearing traditional garb on airplanes. He suggested NPR simply doesn’t like the fact that he also moonlighted as a Fox News analyst.

“I think, just to be blunt, they were using a lot of this as a pretext to get rid of me,” Williams said. “I don’t think they like the idea that I appear on Fox News.”

Williams, who worked for NPR for more than a decade, said the firing sends the message that it’s not OK to have “free-flowing” and “honest” discussions. Being punished for it, he argued, amounts to “censorship.”

“I’m still in the storm of it, but I thought it was unfair,” Williams said.

NPR fired Williams on Wednesday. One day later, Fox News handed him a $2 million contract, expanding his role with the cable channel.

“They suggest I somehow violated NPR’s journalistic standards by telling people about a feeling I had,” Williams later added. “I think people should be able to be open and able to talk about their feelings.”

Williams spoke as part of a regular panel of guests on “Fox News Sunday,” including longtime contributor Brit Hume, who said NPR had been “gunning for him for years.”

“The remark was merely a pretext,” Hume said. “They’ve been wanting to get him, and they got him and in so doing exposed themselves for what they are.”

Williams’ firing has fueled fresh criticism of NPR on the Hill, where several conservative Republicans have argued that any public funding of the organization should be cut. NPR receives some indirect federal funds.