The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Juan Williams: Muzzled, but still talking all the time

July 29, 2011 |  6:10 pm

JuanWilliamsNPR Among the striking non sequiturs in Juan Williams' new book "Muzzled," besides the title, is the author's simultaneous embrace of Fox News and despair at what he says is a national discourse that has become overly ideological and coarse.

Those two ideas may coexist in the nearly 300 pages of Williams' book, but they will ring jarringly dissonant to anyone who has spent more than a few minutes watching Fox hosts batter anyone with an opposing (read: liberal) position.

Fox is the leading practitioner of the full-contact partisan commentary that's spreading across cable television (most notably to MSNBC) and, arguably, to the body politic. Williams won a $2-million contract with Fox over three years after being booted from NPR last fall.

He charges it is the public radio network that is a safe haven for liberal political cant.

I have a longer discussion of the Williams book in my On the Media column, but there wasn't room to mention all the disconnects there. One other misnomer from the onetime Washington Post journalist: In a section of "Muzzled" in which he discusses how much the public liked his work at National Public Radio, Williams notes that the "ombudswoman said she got more response to my work than to any other voice on the network." What he fails to write is that much of that public feedback was negative--complaints about Williams' screeds on Fox.

The book and the discussion accompanying it raise many questions. One for NPR: If Williams was as ineffectual and overly opinionated as you suggest, why did you keep him around for a decade? Perhaps it had something to do with the star status he had achieved in part, ahem, by appearing on Fox. For Williams: If NPR was as corrupt and politically correct as you now report, why didn't you quit before they fired you?

I tried to get Williams through a couple of Fox representatives this week. They did not respond to my inquiries.

--James Rainey

Photo: News analyst Juan Williams is now a commentator at Fox News, full time, after being ousted from his job at National Public Radio last fall. His new book, "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," discusses the controversy and his thoughts on runaway political correctness. Credit: Richard Drew / AP