In Defense of Juan Williams

Juan Williams made a foolish and silly comment to Bill O'Reilly about Muslims the other day. But does it amount to a firing offense? No way. National Public Radio has badly blundered in sacking Williams.

No one who is familiar with Williams or his written record could possibly think that the man is a racist. On the contrary, he's been one of the most lucid journalists on race, not to mention a host of other matters. One of his most memorable pieces came years ago when he described his stint living in Japan. One day he went into a public bath and everyone immediately exited. He realized that it wasn't because he was African-American. It was because they were discombobulated at the notion of sharing a bath with any westerner. That's the kind of distinction that testifies to a keen journalistic eye, and Williams has one.

Williams won't be the loser for leaving NPR. NPR will. At some point political correctness overwhelms common sense. Yes, there should be taboos when it comes to public discourse. Some taboos are necessary and even vital. Yes, trash-talking about Muslims has become dangerously prevalent.

But firing Williams only feeds those sentiments. The honorable thing would have been for Williams to apologize and for NPR to have moved on. Now it's created a furor and turned Williams into a martyr. Williams will survive his firing. The real loser isn't Williams, but NPR.