Last month, National Public Radio (NPR) reporter/commentator Juan Williams was fired
by the organization. The reason for that termination was his comment on a FOX News Program
that when he boarded a plane and saw people dressed in traditional Moslem attire, that he felt
fear or some type of insecurity or wondered. (Not his exact quote). This comment apparently
went against NPR guidelines and allegedly because of past indiscretions caused his termination.
As one would expect, coming to his aid and to his side of the dispute were some
traditionally conservative organizations. But more surprisingly, some Moslem organizations
came to his side expressing their concern that his firing would have a negative backlash against
This firing comes a little over a month after CNN terminated Rick Sanchez for his
comments not on a CNN program. Sanchez contended that Jews were not a minority and in
essence they controlled the media and were his bosses.
Being Jewish, we found some of Rick Sanchez’s comments to be offensive. Apparently
Mr. Sanchez does not know how it feels to be Jewish in most parts of the country. How it feels
to sit in your grade school class when everyone is celebrating Christmas and you are not. To
grow up looking at nativity scenes, Christmas trees and other ornaments knowing that they do not
belong to you. Apparently, Mr. Sanchez does not know how it feels to go to law school in
Alabama and meeting a nice girl who wonders if you have horns when she innocently states that
she has never ever met a Jew before. You can tell Mr. Sanchez that in most parts of the country
Jews are still minorities and feel that way quite often.
Therefore, we can only imagine how a Moslem must feel when hearing that simply
because of the way he or she is attired and mainly she, that others feel fear or simply wonder
about their motives. Obviously, feeling that others are suspicious of you or look at you
differently than they look at everybody else cannot be a good feeling.
Yet, were these two acts rightly fired? After all, all they did was express an opinion and
although possibly distasteful, they did not express hatred or incitement against these groups.
And, let us assume that both CNN and NPR are private. (Although NPR does have some
trapings of being public as the name indicates. However, most of the funding for NPR comes
from private donations) Certainly, private companies have the ability to allow less freedom of
speech and to dictate behavior than does the government. Therefore, because the government is
not involved these cases are less First Amendment speech issues than they are issues of political
correctness. If they were issues of First Amendment rights, there would be no doubt that we
would be on the side of these two journalists. That is not to say that we are still not on their side.
More importantly is the issue of what have we become as a nation. Has political
correctness trumped free speech and individual opinion? Has political correctness put obvious
opinion by the side and made it improper to speak what many people believe?
For example, how many of you do not feel a little fear when you hear Arabic talk waiting
to board a plane? How many of you do not look with suspicion at the Moslem couple, she
dressed in the scarf or the veil with long flowing clothes draped on her body no matter what the
temperature? How many of you do not wonder simply is this the next attack? How many of you
in your mind plan what you will do on the plane if these people choose to attack?
We don’t know the numbers to these questions but we are sure that a fair number of you
feel that way, act that way and feel justified in doing so. In the same light, in different parts of
the country, although few, Jews even though a minority are a large minority and have school
holidays for their religion and even courts closed. When reading the list of executives for the
various broadcast companies or the movie industry and television, Jews have exceeded in this
arena in far greater number than their population would dictate. Therefore, to some Jews are not
necessarily a minority and should not be treated as such.
Both the comments by Sanchez and Williams point out facts of how a large number of
people feel about these groups. To some these comments are offensive. To others they are
parroting their own beliefs. Yet, by silencing Williams and Sanchez, have we changed those
opinions? By silencing Sanchez and Williams, have we changed those beliefs?
For some of you, there may be a difference between what Sanchez said and Williams
said. Some of you may believe that since 9/11 what Williams said is justified and since the Jews
have not done an act of attack on this country what Sanchez said is not. Some of you may
believe that Jews have assimilated into this country to the point where they are us, where
Moslems have not and therefore there is a difference there. Maybe some of you believe that
because Israel, the symbol of Judaism in many people’s mind is a staunch ally of the United
States while numerous Arab countries and Moslem countries are not, allows for a difference in
attitude and speech. This of course, would allow you to justify your beliefs that the Moslem on
the plane could be a danger to you.
If you have noticed, there is no conclusion in this article. If you have noticed, it is little
more than a lot of random thought. The reason for no conclusion is that this article is not to point
out right or wrong, but rather just to bring this issue to thought. Should these journalists have
been fired? Were their comments inappropriate? Should they have had their First Amendment
rights to speak? Should the organizations that they worked for have the power to silence their
speech? Do we live in fear of Moslems and is it right for us to feel that way? Are Jews a
These answers are up to you. Yet, hopefully when you think about these questions and
their answers, remember to use tolerance of others as you would have them be tolerant of you
when you decide these questions.