Juan Williams Firing Rocks Blogosphere

Host Michel Martin and producer Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations on the program. Hear listener reactions to NPR's recent termination of news analyst Juan Williams." Also, a 22-year-old Tennessee man is headed to prison after his 2008 plot to assassinate then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

Coming up, the kind of news you come to NPR for, fashion advice, of course. Clinton Kelley, co-host of the TLC program, "What Not to Wear" joins us in a moment.

But first, it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy is here with me, as he is most Fridays. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, the blogosphere is still buzzing about the firing of NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Last week, NPR decided to abruptly end Williams' contract. It was following a confession he made on the "O'Reilly Factor," which airs on the FOX News channel about sometimes becoming nervous when he sees Muslims dressed in, quote, "Muslim garb" at the airport.

The whole dust-up ignited a fierce debate about both Juan's termination and so- called Islamaphobia, the fear of Muslims in this country. Now, Michel, NPR received more than 20,000 emails, believe it or not, in response to the Juan Williams situation, or as some are calling it, Williamsgate(ph).

MARTIN: I hadn't heard that. Okay.

HILL: We had two conversations about this last Friday. Here's one of our guests, Asra Nomani.

ASRA NOMANI: I am Muslim. What Juan Williams expressed, I believe, is the sentiment of many people, including Muslims. Muslims profile each other all the time. When you walk into a mosque and you see other Muslims, you say, oh, look, he looks like a Jihadi, or that's a niqab, a woman who wears a full- face veil.

HILL: Now, that conversation alone prompted more than 500 comments to our website. Here's a post from Phillip. He writes: Professor Nomani is therapy for the soul on this topic. She really gets it and I'm so thrilled to hear a Muslim get this. The elephant in the room is that Americans are afraid of Islam and we need to talk about it for the sake of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Shame on NPR for their nervous stifling of a real conversation.

MARTIN: Thank you, Phillip, and all those who wrote in. But we also heard from listener Chad who posted this response to that conversation. He writes: Seems to me that just like the word stereotype, people have forgotten the definition of phobia and have applied it to mean any number of neutered ideas. A phobia is an abnormal or irrational fear. And thus Mr. Williams' and, indeed, all phobias need to be viewed in this context. Thank you, Chad.

TELL ME MORE: The line between Asians on that side of the ocean and those on this side has always been blurry to those with a surplus of rage and a deficit of judgment.

Some of the ads focus on the outsourcing of jobs and exports overseas and that led blogger Warren to respond to Yang's post with this comment. He wrote: The problem with U.S. exports is much more fundamental than just Chinese currency manipulation. The two key problems at hand are our failure to focus on true priorities and an electorate more sensitive to incoherent rantings than pragmatic solutions. The U.S. is crippled by our flawed educational system, lack of foresight and reliance on consumer spending. Thank you, Warren.

Lee, what else?

HILL: Well, remember Daniel Cowart? This is a story we covered two years ago. Daniel Cowart is the 22-year-old Tennessee man who plotted a 2008 killing spree that included the intended assassination of then presidential candidate Barack Obama. He pleaded guilty in March to eight federal charges related to a plot to kill 88 African-Americans while Cowart was recently sentenced to 14 years in prison.

MARTIN: All right, thank you, Lee, I was wondering about that.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our website. Go to npr.org, click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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