Sunday, October 24, 2010


Juan Williams firing another case of reaction to selective editing?

by Larry Geller

I wasn’t at all unhappy that NPR fired Juan Williams, as I wrote in Goodbye Juan Williams, good riddance (10/20/2010). As it turns out, there is more to this story.

It seems very likely that Williams was a victim of selective editing, in much the same way Shirley Sherrod was smeared and fired on the basis of a video clip taken completely out of context. In an article by Slate’s William Saletan:

Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her.

Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot. They circulated the video on the Internet, and last night, NPR fired him.   [, Shirley Not Again, 10/21/2010]

Whether Williams is a victim of selective editing or not would depend on whether NPR execs viewed just the edited excerpt of Williams’ O’Reilly Factor appearance or took the trouble to watch the whole episode.

As with Sherrod, cutting off the video mid-statement appears to have completely reversed what Williams said. His conclusion:

"But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam."

In the edited video, he did express his fear of Muslims. But in the part not shown, he used the example of his initial reaction as an example, as did Sherrod, to make a very honorable point. (Let’s not get into whether Bush believed what he said or not.)

NPR may have been looking for an excuse to fire him. As it turns out, though, a potentially principled decision has been turned on its head. The reason they cited for giving him the axe actually works against their case.

Too bad they didn’t let him go earlier. Their apparent misstep doesn’t mean he belongs at NPR, just that probably they did the firing badly.

The NAACP had to admit it was “snookered” by the selectively edited video of Sherrod. NPR may have been snookered also, or if they did view the entire O’Reilly segment, they might explain why it was the basis for a firing—just to reclaim some credibility, of course. The deed is already done.

With his new Fox News $2 million contract deal, it may be that Williams and all the other parties involved are happy enough with the outcome.

For more, see also The Firing of Juan Williams (On the Media, 10/22/2010) (audio available now, transcript to be posted on Monday).

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I agree with you on this commenter: no loss; but this Sherrod-ing thing seems to be proliferating. Remember the ACORN (edited) tapes? They shut them down FAST!

Nice meeting you out and about Honolulu

Yes, good to meet you also! Makes blogging more worthwhile meeting readers.

Yes, the ACORN fraud seems to be the first of the recent bunch. That deliberate distortion killed the organization. Congress didn't even restore funding when they learned they were lied to.

I find that interesting. In the ACORN case and in the Williams case, I wonder if those who took action (Congress, NPR) were really looking for an excuse. Congress was stupid to believe it, but perhaps they really believed it. Now that this technique has been misused, you'd think NPR would have said "wait, let's check what else he said...". Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, but now they don't look so good.

As with ACORN, many people are familiar with the Williams video, which lives on, and they did not catch that it was a fraud. I heard a radio program late on Friday that missed that Williams' remarks were taken totally out of context.

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