Alicia Shepard, Ombudsman of the powerful liberal/leftist NPR organization, has just posted a column responding to NPR listeners upset with senior political analyst Juan Williams.
Williams sins? He sometimes says things that are not part of the approved orthodox liberal canon. And he says them on – gasp – the Fox News network,
Here’s some of what Shepard says. I intersperse one comment and offer others below the star line.
According to Shepard - - -
NPR has more than 400 reporters, editors, producers and analysts on its news team, and none is more of a lightning rod than Juan Williams. But it's usually not for anything he says on NPR….
Williams is controversial among NPR listeners because of his long-standing contract with Fox News, which he had before he joined NPR. Currently, he appears on Fox sometimes with Bill O'Reilly and on Sunday morning with Chris Wallace....
Last year, 378 listeners emailed me complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox. The listener themes are similar: Williams "dishonors NPR." He's an "embarrassment to NPR." "NPR should severe their relationship with him."
The latest flap involves Williams' comment on Fox about First Lady Michelle Obama. To date, I've received 56 angry emails. For comparison, this year so far, listeners sent 13 emails about Steve Inskeep, 8 about Mara Liasson and 6 about Cokie Roberts -- other NPR personalities who I often get emails about.
Here's what Williams said on Jan. 26, but the transcript doesn't convey the same impact as the video, posted on YouTube. Williams is explaining that Vice President Joe Biden could be a liability for President Obama. But so could his wife.
"Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going," said Williams. "If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine [Ham, a conservative blogger] is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."
O'Reilly responded: "She's not going to do that."
When I asked Williams about his comments, he initially called it a "faux controversy."
But then he reviewed the tape and realized that "the tone and tenor of my comments may have spurred a strong reaction to what I considered to be pure political analysis of the First Lady's use of her White House pulpit," said Williams via email. "I regret that in the fast-paced, argumentative format my tone and tenor seems to have led people to see me as attacking instead of explaining my informed point of view."
But anyone watching the O'Reilly segment wouldn't know Williams was talking about those two articles. He never mentioned them. Those who wrote me felt Williams was attacking the First Lady. [Williams didn’t need to reference those two articles. Listeners – liberal, independent or conservative – knew what he was referring to.
Who’s forgotten “a downright mean country” that our First Lady said she’d only become proud of when he husband emerged as a front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination?
Who’s forgotten that for almost 20 years Michelle Obama and her husband attended a church whose pastor delivered anti-white, anti-American sermons; or that they took their children to his church for religious instruction?
None of that may count for much among the “400 reporters, editors, producers and analysts on [NPR’s] news team,” but it counts for a great deal among tens of millions of Americans.
Williams’ commentary was reasonable. If any proof is needed of how easily Ms. Obama can become a more negatively-viewed public figure that proof is provided first, by the great care NPR and other liberal/leftist news organizations took during the campaign to avoid asking Ms. Obama about her statements I’ve just cited or her attendance and support for Rev. Wright and his church; and, second, by MSM almost total silence on them since the election. JinC]
"I am concerned about the objectivity Juan Williams brings to his news analysis," wrote Alison Fowler. "He has made statements on Fox News regarding Michelle Obama that appear to paint her as an angry Black Nationalist without any basis in fact. Despite the fact that these statements were not made on NPR, they undermine his credibility as an impartial news analyst on your network." …
There’s a lot more to Shepards’ column. You can read it all here.
Shepard points out Williams is not on NPR as a reporter, but as a commentator. So his job calls for him to give opinions, Alison Fowler's pouting not withstanding. to give opinions
But Shepard wonders why Williams receives so much criticism? And she asks “is it fair?”
She then in the rest of her column offers a tortured set of facts to justify a number of strained rationales for the complaints. Mostly they have to do with Williams speaking, in Shepard’s opinion, more rashly on FOX and that his doing so while ID’ed on Fox as a NPR analyst can reflect poorly on NPR.
I’ve been thinking about Williams, NPR and FOX for a while now.
If I were a teacher grading Williams (I mostly hear him on the 6 PM ET news with the All-Stars and I heard him a lot during coverage of election nights) I'd give him a few “As,” some “Bs,” some “Cs,” (more “Bs” than “Cs”) and a few “Fs.”
Under “Teacher Comments” I’d write:
Over the years, Juan, you seem to have moved from what I viewed as a “rote liberal” position to one leaning more left than right but often surprising us with independent statements that take guts.Folks, getting back to Ombudsman Shepard.
I was especially impressed by your willingness during the recent campaign to criticize then Sen. Obama when he played the race card and to call him out for not answering questions on major policy issues. No doubt that upset many NPR listeners.
Your tears election night when Obama was declared President-elect were honest and understandable.
I expect to disagree with you sometimes and I look forward to listening to you.
She could’ve saved herself and her readers a lot of time if she’d just said something like:
I don’t get comments critical of Nina Totenberg and Daniel Schorr because they’re reliably liberal. Williams isn’t and there’s a segment of NPR listeners who just can’t stand that.
I promise all our NPR listeners Williams was reliably liberal when we hired him; then he started changing.
We can’t just fire him now, but if you read my column, you’ll see we’re doing everything we can to move him closer to the door.