Skip to content

Conservatives get the constitution wrong, again.

The conservative right has been getting “freedom of religion” wrong for a while now, claiming that we are a “Christian Nation” and that there is no separation of church and state.

But now they are turning their attention to freedom of speech over the firing of Juan Williams from NPR. And they are getting that one horribly wrong, too. The right, including Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, and Fox News, are calling his firing a “chilling assault on free speech” and claiming that it violates the First Amendment.

Say what? The First Amendment says the government cannot stop you from expressing your opinions. It most certainly does not say that the government has to hire you and pay you money to say them.

Since when did conservatives object to a business firing someone? NPR is a business. If I work for a company, and I go on the radio and say something that is damaging to my company, I will almost certainly be fired. It doesn’t matter if that company receives money from the government (and NPR receives a very small amount of its budget from the government). Just imagine if I were a policeman and I went on the radio and insulted the police chief and the mayor. Would getting fired violate my first amendment rights? Of course not. I can say whatever I like and they can’t stop me. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they fired me. The First Amendment does not protect me from being fired.

What makes this especially hypocritical is that the people who are screaming that this violates the First Amendment (which it doesn’t) are the very same people who tried to actually violate the First Amendment. Back in 2007, the Republicans introduced a bill to cut all federal funding to Columbia University. Why? Because the university hosted a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In other words, they object to NPR firing Juan Williams, but they themselves wanted to punish Columbia for exercising free speech (which is pretty much the exact thing that the First Amendment protects).

Share

17 Comments

  1. Carl Thomas wrote:

    “NPR is a business.”

    NPR is supported, sadly, with taxpayer $$$$$.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 5:09 am | Permalink
  2. Jonah wrote:

    The assumption that NPR is funded by taxpayer money is total bunk.

    From NPR:

    How many of my tax dollars go to NPR?

    NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government. Less than two percent of the budget is derived from competitive grants from federally funded organizations such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts.

    Approximately half of NPR’s funding comes from NPR member stations. In an average year, NPR funds about 45 percent of its operations with membership dues and program fees from member stations. The balance of NPR’s annual revenue is derived from private foundations, individuals and corporations, in the form of grants, gifts, investment proceeds, and corporate sponsorships. NPR receives some revenue from distribution fees and fees from tapes and transcripts. Financial statements, based on annual audits, are available in NPR’s most recent Annual Report.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 5:30 am | Permalink
  3. patriotsgt wrote:

    Jonah is correct on NPR and where they derive funds. Only about 2% come from the fd in the form of diff grants, bu it is still fed money.

    I havn’t heard anyone at fox make the claim about his firing being a 1st amendment issue. Bill O specifically stated it was not a 1st amendment issue when others tried to make it so. I’m not sure about the other commentators, (don’t watch them) but Oreilly and Van Sustern not.

    I do think it says alot about who NPR is and from whom they take their orders. It is no longer a free press bi-partisan institution but still has some good programs.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  4. Jonah wrote:

    If a white house figure made the same comment that juan williams did that person would have been fired. NPR is supposed to be an unbiased radio station and having a commentator like juan williams on it would certaintly have affected muslim viewership. The firing could have been handled better but i’ve listened to juan williams before and i couldn’t be happier he was fired. If it drives a few rednecks away from NPR I personally couldn’t care less.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  5. Jeff wrote:

    If Juan had not been allowed to speak his personal opinion on some media forum, then it would be a violation of the First Amendment. However, he was fired specifically because he spoke his mind. How can it be a violation if he was already allowed to express himself? It doesn’t make sense.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink
  6. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Guys, I hate to break it to you but they only care because it is NPR. Seriously, that is it. All the hemming and hawing is smoke and mirrors.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  7. starluna wrote:

    Juan Williams had been making editorial comments when he was supposed to be reporting news and had been doing this for quite a while. He had been warned previously by his bosses that he was to separate his editorializing that he does on Fox from his journalistic duties at NPR. He was unable to do that and so he was let go.

    Let’s remember, Williams didn’t say that he is uncomfortable with the fact that he feels this discomfort. He didn’t say that he struggles with his own bias. He implied that that there is nothing wrong whatsoever with this view, and indeed has a to right be uncomfortable around people he perceives to be Moslem.

    Personally, I never liked Juan Williams. His conservative orientation never bothered me. He was just not a good journalist. The questions he asked were always superficial. He rarely dug into the root causes of the issues he was supposed to be investigating. And he was apparently unable to accept that there is a difference between the editorial and the news. I’m happy to see him go.

    And yes you can be fired for making comments that are viewed as inconsistent with the mission of the organization. After the Crowely-Gates fiasco last summer, a Boston police officer was fired for an email he sent that denigrated Dr. Gates in a racist manner. The officer didn’t say that Gates was an asshole (which he is) who should have been more respectful of the police. He called Gates a “banana eating jungle monkey,” which is a longstanding racial slur. I personally do not like Dr. Gates, but I support the Boston Police on this one. We should not condone intolerance among who are in positions of power and influence. Journalists included.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink
  8. starluna wrote:

    Oh, and I should add that Juan Williams made his comments not as a general “political analyst” but as an “NPR political analyst.” He was told that he was not to identify as an NPR analyst when speaking in his editorial capacity on Fox, but did not do that. Basically, he ignored and violated a direct order from his bosses. If any of my staff ignored a direct order, I reserve the right to fire them. Period.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Mike Huckabee, who works for Fox News: “NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left.”

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  10. Falkelord wrote:

    People who still believe NPR is funded entirely by taxpayer dollars hasn’t ever listened to NPR. They campaign 11 months out of the year for money from listeners. It’s the same thing with LPB (louisiana public broadcasting) here. “This channel made possible by viewers like you”

    THROUGH DONATIONS.
    NOT TAXPAYER DOLLARS.

    :|

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  11. “News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts.”

    Here’s some news for you: Fox and the media figures that would like you to believe that this is a violation of the 1st Amendment are not conservatives. They are anti-liberals.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    By the way, as proof that this has nothing to do with NPR, the same people who want to defund NPR also put defunding PBS into the same bill. This is just an excuse to get rid of public media, because the corporations can’t own it.

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  13. starluna wrote:

    chinagreenelvis: that is a very interesting distinction. How would you define or describe anti-liberalism that makes it distinct from conservatism?

    Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink
  14. Greg Hodges wrote:

    OK, time to cut to the chase. NPR blatently discriminated against News Analyst Juan Williams. We are told he was fired for repeatedly giving personal opinions that some found to be offensive.
    I’ll buy that….BUT…..why weren’t OTHER NPR News Analysts, namely Cokie Roberts and Ted Kopple, also fired…or even reprimanded, for also giving ‘personal opinions’ on issues that some might find offensive ? Just recently, Ms Roberts opined that Glenn Beck was a ‘clown’ and insinuated that he might be a terrorist. Regardless of one’s opinion of Beck, there are many citizens who would deem Ms Roberts’ “opinion” to be offensive and hateful. If NPR management punishes one employee, but does nothing to other employees who commit the same ‘offense’, then NPR is guilty of gross discrimination. Period.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  15. patriotsgt wrote:

    Starluna – I believe you can be conservative in nature, ie. a fiscal conservative and support some liberal ideology. I believe anti-liberalism is is more a right wing ideology that does not agree with the liberal agenda. I am a fiscal conservative, but I support pro-choice and gay rights. I may have conservative leaning thoughts on how to raise children, instill disclipline, holding people accountable for poor choces, etc. but that does not make me anti-liberal. Thats how I see it anyway.

    Greg – I also believe Juan was fired for a pretty weak reason. You can fire anyone for anything including the color of their hair or not liking their sister. Now whether you pay for that decision via lawsuit is another matter. It’s clear with Soros covertly calling the shots that the left leaning NPR may have indeed been looking for an excuse to get rid of Juan for a long time but it probably should not have been a surprise to him. If it was then they could be neglegent for not warning their employee that he’s treading on thin ice. I believe you owe any long term employee that much decency, and if they never told him they were displeased with his past discourse on Fox then they are wrong to fire him now. I havn’t heard either way.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  16. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sigh. Juan Williams WAS warned repeatedly. NPR even told him to stop identifying himself as an NPR newsperson when he was giving opinions on Fox. But he kept doing it, including this last time (when he was fired). From the CEO of NPR:

    The reason that we terminated his contract is because of our news ethics guidelines.

    The guidelines are based on the same news ethics guidelines of the Society of Professional Journalists, and are very similar to that of The New York Times and many other news organizations.

    He had several times in the past violated our news code of ethics with things that he had said on other people’s air. I’m not aware of any problem with any things he has said on our air. In each of those instances, we called him on it; we had a discussion; we asked him not to do it again. It happened several times. What happened a few days ago was the latest in a series of incidents.

    I can’t characterize that this was better or worse or less egregious or more egregious than any other time. The point is, this was the latest in a series of incidents.

    You give people second chances — we’re big believers in that and we do it all the time — but it happened again and again. And so we made the decision at this point that we had to draw the line somewhere.

    A reasonable person could say, “Well why didn’t you make the decision last time this time or the time before?” Or, “Why didn’t you wait until the next time?” Fair enough.

    We made the decision here because, at a certain point, if someone keeps not following your guidance, you have to make a break. And that’s what we did. And that is the sole reason.

    He was NOT fired for “giving personal opinions that some found to be offensive”, Greg. He was fired for going on Fox News, identifying himself as an NPR newsperson, and then giving opinions that he would not express on NPR.

    In addition, repeated investigations have shown that NPR is NOT liberal or conservative, but is about halfway in between your typical Democrat and Republican. Bottom line — Fox News wants to kill NPR. Does that surprise anyone?

    Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  17. patriotsgt wrote:

    Well, if Juan had received warnings about his commentary crossing the line of NPR standards then he should have been fired if his last infraction crossed their line. But, what ever happened to speaking to employees in person? After the Shirly S. debacle I didn’t think we’d see another long distance public termination. I guess todays managers don’t have the guts to look someone in the eye and say your fired. Thats a different sad state of affairs for our management sector.
    Ah Ha, on Fox wanting to kill NOR, but would NPR like to kill Fox? And if Juan had made his comments on MSNBC would he have been fired? These things and more, inquiring minds want to know. Tune in tomorrow for the next episode of “The guiding Site” otherwise known as Politicalirony.com

    Monday, November 1, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink