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Fox News political analyst likens NPR firing to NASCAR

Cody Cousino / Asst. multimedia editor

From NPR to Fox News, Juan Williams said the American media is undergoing a shocking shift.

Fox News political analyst Williams spoke at the Wexner Center for the Arts on Tuesday afternoon about his October firing from NPR.

“I suspect for many of you the reason to come here this afternoon to see me is the same reason you go to watch NASCAR. You know, car crashes, firings,” Williams said.

NPR fired Williams after making a comment, which some considered racist, to Bill O’Reilly on the Oct. 18 “O’Reilly Factor.”

“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 told O’Reilly. “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’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Williams, 56, said the response to his comments shocked him.

“I had no idea when I said what I said that it would create such a storm,” Williams told The Lantern. “Obviously, this is much bigger than me, something has touched a nerve in American society.”

Williams has spent most of his life working as a reporter for The Washington Post and NPR. He currently writes for The Hill newspaper in Washington in addition to his role at Fox News.

“There is this tremendous shift going on in the American media … what you see is there is more and more niche journalism, as I call it,” Williams said.

Williams said opinion cable news shows are not bad, they just should be viewed as one side of the news.

The speech was part of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs’ annual Stanley Muroff Civil Liberties Forum.

“(Williams) is a national figure in journalism and public affairs and I think he likes to get out and to meet people in places other than Washington, D.C., which is kind of a bubble, and I think he likes interacting with students,” said Charles Wise, the founding director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

Williams said the support he received from across the political spectrum after his firing amazed and astonished him. He is writing a book about the experience titled “Muzzled,” scheduled to come out later this year.

Williams said he knows Gov. John Kasich from Kasich’s time in Congress and working at Fox News.

“You stop and think of everything from business development under John Kasich to dealing with public sector unions, to making sure that the budget is correct,” Williams said. “And I think it’s his moment because he’s got a clear working majority in both houses and he’s the governor, but he’s got major issues and if he does not deliver, I subject that the voters will be quite harsh.”

Williams said he was not familiar enough with the Ohio budget to make specific suggestions, but as a general thought, he would not cut education funding.

Hannah Harris, a fourth-year in history, said she enjoyed the event and thought Williams tried to clarify what had happened to him.

“I just generally attend anything by the John Glenn School. They generally bring in good speakers, interesting speakers,” Harris said.

A donor and two co-sponsors paid for the event, but specific costs were not made available to The Lantern.

“Every year we have a donor, Mr. Stan Muroff, who contributes money to produce a forum about civil liberties,” said Laura Sipe, the events manager for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. “This year we actually have two additional co-sponsors, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the multicultural center.”

The forum was sold out to 300 students and community members, although only about two-thirds of the seats were full.


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