October 21, 2010

Juan Williams’ departure from NPR raises an important question about where, and how, to draw the line between political incorrectness and bigotry.

Williams, a longtime news analyst for NPR, was released from his contract for comments he made on “The O’Reilly Factor” Monday night. When asked to comment on the notion that America is facing a dilemma with Muslims, Williams said: “When I get on the plane … 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.”

His departure comes on the heels of CNN’s decision to let go of Rick Sanchez after he called “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart a bigot and implied CNN and other networks are all run by Jewish people. And several months ago, Helen Thomas resigned after making remarks about Jews and Israel that some found offensive.

Some have said Williams’ removal seems unjustified. At what point are journalists’ remarks about people of another race, ethnicity or religion politically incorrect or grounds for firing? And how can these comments affect the way their colleagues and news consumers view them and their organizations? How much opinion can journalists in certain roles express, and how much is too much?

We talked about these questions and more in a live chat today. You can revisit this link at any time to watch a replay of the chat.

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As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the…
Mallary Jean Tenore

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