(Oct. 21) -- Sometimes, the freedom of speech comes with an asterisk attached.
NPR's firing of veteran political commentator Juan Williams for his admission on Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's program that he gets nervous when he gets on a plane and sees people dressed in "Muslim garb" is but the latest instance of an American public figure being forced out of a job for statements deemed to be inflammatory or insensitive. Surge Desk has a roundup.
1. Robert Neumann
The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan administration, Robert Neumann was forced out of his job in 1983 after reportedly saying that then Secretary of State Alexander Haig had a pro-Israel bias.
2. Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder
CBS sports commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was canned by his employer after making a statements about African-American athletic superiority during a 1988 interview dealing with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "The black is the better athlete," Snyder said. "And he practices to be the better athlete, and he's bred to be the better athlete because this goes way back to the slave period. The slave owner would breed this big black with this big woman so he could have a big black kid. That's where it all started."
3. Rush Limbaugh
After criticizing former Eagles quarter back Donovan McNabb's skills and saying that the "media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN in 2003, ending his brief career as a sports analyst.
4. Don Imus
In 2007, MSNBC fired Don Imus after the radio and television talk show host jokingly referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."
5. Octavia Nasr
After CNN's senior Middle East editor, Octavia Nasr, posted a Twitter message expressing that she was sad to hear of the death of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, whom she noted had been an advocate for ending Muslim honor killings of women, but who was also a spiritual mentor of Hezbollah, she was fired.
6. Paul Shirley
The ESPN blogger was sacked in January after making what his employer said were insensitive comments about the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. "I haven't donated a cent to the Haitian relief effort," Shirley wrote, "and I probably will not." Shirley added, "Shouldn't much of the responsibility for the disaster lie with the victims of the disaster?"
7. Helen Thomas
Long the doyenne of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas' career took an abrupt turn in June after video of her saying that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Poland, Germany and America was released on the website RabbiLive.com.
8. Shirley Sherrod
After edited clips of a speech by USDA official Shirley Sherrod that seemed to show her boasting of not helping a white farmer to the fullest of her ability were posted on the Web, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak pulled the plug and had Sherrod fired. Subsequent review of the full speech revealed the context of Sherrod's remarks, and she was offered another job at USDA, but she declined.
9. Rick Sanchez
Appearing on a Sirius radio program, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez went on a rant against Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, calling the comedian a "bigot," before expanding his remarks to an observation about the number of Jews who, according to Sanchez, run Americas broadcast networks. Just hours later, CNN fired Sanchez.
10. Unnamed Staffer
An as-yet-unnamed aide to Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss got the ax in October after it was learned he had posted a blog comment that read "All [gays] must die."
11. Juan Williams
Speaking on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program on Monday, veteran reporter and commentator Juan Williams said the following:
According to his bosses at NPR, that was enough of an offense for the public radio station to sever ties with him.Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, 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.
The double standard?
Clearly, in terms of so-called political correctness, what constitutes a firing offense is a relative matter, and Williams continues to be employed by Fox News. Indeed, as Andrew Sullivan points out, the network's refusal to can host Brian Kilmeade after he declared that "all terrorists are Muslims," indicates that the network has a much higher threshold than other media outlets or some government agencies.
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