I Said What I Meant
I AM A BIGOT. I hate Muslims. I am a fomenter of hate and intolerance. I am a black guy who makes fun of Muslims for the entertainment of white racists. I am brazen enough to do it on TV before the largest cable news audience in America. And I am such a fraud that while I was spreading hate to a conservative audience at night I delivered a totally different message to a large liberal morning-radio audience. I fooled the radio folks into thinking of me as a veteran Washington correspondent and the author of several acclaimed books celebrating America's battles against racism.
My animus toward Muslims may be connected to my desire for publicity and the fact that I am mentally unstable. And I am also a fundamentally bad person. I repeatedly ignored warnings to stop violating my company's standards for news analysis. And I did this after repeated warnings from my patient employer. Therefore, my former employers made the right decision when they fired me. In fact, they should be praised for doing it, and rewarded with taxpayer money. Their only sin was that they didn't fire me sooner.
This is just a sampling of some of the reaction to National Public Radio's decision to fire me last year after a ten-year career as a national talk show host, senior correspondent, and senior news analyst. They were not taken from the anonymous comments section of a YouTube page or the reams of hate mail that flooded my in-box in the days before the firing. No, this is the response from the NPR management whom I had served with great success for nearly a decade. It is also the reaction from national advocacy groups like the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose work I had generally admired and occasionally defended over the years. Joining them was a small, knee -jerk mob of liberal commentators, including a New York Times editorial writer, who defended NPR as an important news source deserving federal funding even if it meant defaming me—"he made foolish and hurtful remarks about Muslims." Cable TV star Rachel Maddow, a fervent champion of free speech, agreed that I had a right to say what was on my mind, but in her opinion the comments amounted to bigotry. I had a right to speak but no right to "keep [my] job." NPR also found support among leftist intellectuals who regularly brag about defending the rights of the little guy but had no problem siding with a big institution over an individual journalist when the journalist was me. One writer said I had long ingratiated myself with conservatives and I had gotten what was coming to me. His conclusion about me: "Sleep with dogs, get fleas."
What did I do that warranted the firing and the ad hominem attacks that preceded and followed?
I simply told the truth.
Looking back on the torrential media coverage surrounding my dismissal, I am struck by how little of it tells the full story of what actually happened. Basic facts were distorted, important context was not provided, and personal attacks were treated as truth. The lack of honest reporting about the firing and the events that led up to it was not just unfair—most of it was flat-out lies.
In this first chapter, I will tell you the full story of what happened to me. My purpose in doing this is not to get people to fee l sorry for me. The goal of this book is to set the record straight and to use my experience in what amounts to a political and media whacking as the starting point for a much needed discussion about the current, sad state of political discourse in this country. It is time to end the ongoing assault against honest debate in America.
Reprinted from Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams.
Copyright 2011. Published by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.