WASHINGTON – Longtime news analyst Juan Williams, who has written extensively on race and civil rights, has been fired by NPR after saying on the Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane.
NPR issued a statement late Wednesday saying his contract as a senior news analyst was being terminated after Williams' comments Monday on "The O'Reilly Factor."
Host Bill O'Reilly brought on guests to discuss his own appearance last week on ABC's "The View" during which Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in protest of O'Reilly's views on Muslims.
"Where am I going wrong here, Juan?" O'Reilly asked.
Williams, 56, responded that too much political correctness can get in the way of reality.
"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," Williams 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 are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
A phone message left for Williams at his home in Washington seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday morning.
Before Williams was fired, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said such commentary from a journalist about other racial, ethnic or religious minority groups would not be tolerated.
"NPR should address the fact that one of its news analysts seems to believe that all airline passengers who are perceived to be Muslim can legitimately be viewed as security threats," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.
Later Wednesday, NPR issued a statement saying Williams' remarks "were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
"Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret," NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm said in an e-mailed statement.
Williams was a longtime reporter, columnist and editorial writer at The Washington Post. He has written extensively on the Civil Rights movement, including a book on the African American religious experience and a biography of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Conservative bloggers defended Williams on Thursday, blasting NPR's decision.
"All Juan Williams did is say both exactly how he feels and how many, many other Americans feel on this subject," wrote Erick Erickson on his "Red State" blog. "The man's body of work makes clear he is no bigot. But we sure can't offend Muslims can we?"