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NPR's CEO Questions Juan Williams's Sanity (UPDATED)

3:13 PM, Oct 21, 2010 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Vivian Schiller, the CEO of National Public Radio, publicly questioned the sanity of former NPR news analyst Juan Williams one day after dismissing the Fox News contributor for comments inconsistent with NPR’s standards. Schiller said that Williams should have kept his views between himself and “his psychiatrist or his publicist” in an appearance in Atlanta today.

NPR's CEO Questions Juan Williams's Sanity (UPDATED)

Schiller, who ended Williams’s contract yesterday, also said that Williams was terminated not because of his words on the O’Reilly Factor Monday night but because he shouldn’t have been taking such positions at all given his role as a “news analyst” on NPR.

It’s a bogus claim to justify a bogus firing. Schiller obviously never watches Fox. Williams takes positions regularly – almost daily – in his various appearances on the network.

He wasn’t fired because he has publicly expressed an opinion, he was fired because he publicly expressed the wrong opinion – at least in the eyes of Schiller and NPR’s executives.

Williams has strong views. And he’s shared them on Fox regularly over the past month.

Consider just these last few occasions in which I appeared with Juan on Fox News:

On October 7, Williams talked about insurance companies raising premiums and the Obama administration’s response: “At the same time, I think it's politics, and I hope that you see it. If you see insurance company refusing to cover sick children or saying they can't afford to pay 85 percent -- so they get 15 percent profit but won't spend 85 percent helping people are sick, I think the insurance companies are rich and powerful and they're beating Obama with politics right now.”

Later, in discussing he upcoming midterm elections, he said: “It's really troubling when you start to see the country is shifting more to the right even if you have a self-identified liberal president.”

On September 27, we argued about tax cuts and Williams claimed the GOP arguments were not credible: “I was listening to Steve and thinking, boy, how people can see things so differently, because what looks to me what is going on in Washington is Republicans have said unless we get the tax cuts for the very rich in this country, we are not going to allow a vote to go through that would give a tax cut to everyone who makes $250,000 or less…For me it seems that Republicans are the ones who are saying the Democrats kept you from having a tax cut – it is just not credible. I think most Americans will say I don't think that is the story I was hearing.”

On September 10, Williams noted that President Obama had finally gotten aggressive in his response to Republican arguments on the economy: “I'm glad to see the president's finally engaged on the issue. It's time.”

Juan Williams is not a doctrinaire liberal, but a thoughtful one. He has been sharing his “controversial opinions” on Fox News for years – passionately and eloquently. So Schiller’s arguments that Williams was fired simply for sharing his opinions is nonsense. It’s just that they became “controversial” when he strayed unacceptably from the NPR-left line and when left-wing agitators complained about it.

But for Schiller to question Williams’ sanity suggests she’s not fit to run a taxpayer-funded organization.

Update by Daniel Halper at 3:29 pm: NPR’s Anna Christopher, senior manager for media relations, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that “Vivian [Schiller] spoke hastily and apologized to Juan and others for her hasty remark.” Previously, Christopher maintained that "no, [Schiller] was not questioning his sanity. It was an off-handed comment. She’s not in any way commenting on his sanity." After we asked why Schiller would apologize if she hadn't questioned Williams's sanity, Christopher conceded, “We can see how it would be interpreted, as you interpreted it…that she’s suggesting that he see a psychologist.”

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