Juan Williams was fired Wednesday over comments he made on “The O’Reilly Factor.” “When I get on a plane,” he said, “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.” After his remarks, Fox announced it had re-signed Williams, who has been with the network since 1997, to a multi year deal that will give him an expanded role–while, NPR terminated his contract.
In an interview on Friday, Vivian Schiller, NPR’s chief executive, defended the decision to dismiss Mr. Williams and said it was not the product of political or financial pressures. “And that is the sole reason,” she added. “This is not a First Amendment issue.” The public radio organization has come under severe criticism — largely from people who are not listeners, it believes — for having fired Mr. Williams. Some have said his comment was bigoted, but others have rallied to Mr. Williams’s defense, and many conservatives have seized on his firing to resurrect their war against public broadcasting.
NPR radio stations are independently owned and operated and, like the nation’s public TV stations, receive government funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which got about $420 million this year from Washington. As for NPR’s headquarters operation, federal grants account for less than 2 percent — or $3.3 million — of its $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors.