• With: Steve Hayes, Nia-Malika Henderson, Charles Krauthammer

    This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 21, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


    JUAN WILLIAMS, FORMER NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I mean, 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 a plane, I’ve got to tell you, if I see people in Muslim garb and I think they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.

    VIVIAN SCHILLER, NPR PRESIDENT AND CEO: This is not a reflection on his comments.  This is not a debate, you know. Juan feels the way he feels. That is not for me to pass judgment on that. That is really his feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his, you know, psychiatrist or his publicist, or take your pick.

    But it is not compatible with a news analyst with the role of a news analyst on NPR's air.


    BRET BAIER, HOST OF "SPECIAL REPORT": NPR terminating its contract with Juan Williams as a news analyst after something he said on Bill O'Reilly's show Monday night.  Juan says he call a call from Ellen Weiss, NPR's senior vice president for news, Wednesday evening.


    WILLIAMS: She said, you know, this has been decided up the chain. I said, I mean I don't get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball to eyeball, person to person, have a conversation? I’ve been there for more than 10 years. We don't have a chance to have a conversation about this?

    She said there is nothing you could say that would change my mind. This has been decided above me and we’re terminating your contract.


    BAIER: President and CEO of this company Roger Ailes has announced that he is extending and expanding Juan Williams contract with Fox News channel as of today.

    What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Nia-Malika Henderson, at The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I want to start by having people look at this quote from Jesse Jackson about 18 years ago in which he says, I hope we can put it up on the screen, that when he walks down the street, hears footsteps, and he starts thinking about robbery, he looks around and when he sees someone who is white, he feels relieved.  Jesse Jackson is saying this. In other words, if the people he looked at were black, he would feel anxiety or fear.

    Now, this -- there is nobody in his right mind that is going to say that Jesse Jackson is a racist, anti-black racist. He's not. So what's happening here? There are two elements in what he does here. He talks about a feeling which is related to a statistical fact. The feeling is the anxiety he feels, and the fact he is talking about is implicit, of course, the empirical fact that there is a higher rate of crime among young African-Americans than among young blacks (ph).

    Now, he regrets this. He regrets this. And he says the feeling of relief is a result of this obviously statistical disparity.

    Now, think of what Juan has said. It's exactly the same kind of statement. He talks about a feeling he has when he sees a person in Muslim garb. And then he spoke explicitly about how it's related to empirical reality. The empirical reality we all know that overwhelmingly the attacks of terrorism in the world, the attacks on airplanes, buildings, mosques around the world in the last 20 years have been overwhelmingly carried out not by the IRA or the Tamil Tigers or the German red army, but by radical Islamists.

    So he makes a statement that's perfectly parallel with what Jackson said. Now you explain to me why nobody would attribute hostility, bigotry, or racism in the Jackson statement and, yet, NPR attributes to the Juan Williams' statement, and not only attributes it but does it with such certainty that it dismisses him without even a hearing.

    I would like to hear one executive at NPR defend that. If not, this is not just a case of political correctness. It's a case of intellectual cowardice.

    BAIER: Nia, NPR's executives, the president of NPR Vivian Schiller, said today there have been multiple instants where they have talked to Juan about speaking out and expressing his opinions. They have been uncomfortable with it. What about all of this?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, WASHINGTON POST: It seems like in a way Juan Williams was in a pretty unhappy marriage with NPR for the last couple of years and this is the final straw for them.

    And, you know, I think some journalists over the last couple of weeks and months have run into similar situations. CNN fired Rick Sanchez for comments he made about Jon Stewart.

    But I do think, I mean, as a journalist, I think there is this kind of increasing blurring of the lines between commentary and analysis and opinion and what is straight news and objective, you know, objective reporting.

    In some ways I think Juan Williams got tripped up with that.  But, also, I mean, I think one of the underlying things is that he was in a very precarious position from the point of view of his bosses.

    BAIER: He has been a contributor here for a long time, speaking of other opinions, perhaps. Here’s a couple quotes. Nina Totenberg, NPR correspondent said this about Jesse Helms, former Republican senator -- "I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the good Lord's mind because if there is attributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion or one of his grandchildren will."

    There is also an incident about a recent story about learning the language of ‘tea bag.’  Steve, those people still have jobs.

    STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You don't need to look that far back to see what Nina Totenberg has said. I looked what she has said over the last four weeks.

    Let's make a distinction here. Nina Totenberg is an NPR correspondent. Not an analyst, which suggests some blending of fact and opinion, but a correspondent. She is a reporter. And she is on a show in Washington that Charles is on as well called "Inside Washington."

    And over the last four weeks she has said the following things, that Michelle Obama makes voters feel "warm and fuzzy," that Bill Clinton was the most gifted politician she has ever seen, that the Supreme Court ruling, which she covers, in Citizens United was "outrageous, scandalous, and could lead to another Watergate."

    And then the one that I find most outrageous of all, in a discussion about the tax cuts, extending the tax cuts, there was a discussion about the 31 Democrats who had written to Nancy Pelosi and said we want to extend these tax cuts for everyone. Nina Totenberg said, lamented the diversity in the Democratic Party, said "When you have huge majority you have huge diversity. And that is a part of the problem that Democrats have. Would I like it to be otherwise? Of course."

    So, here she is taking not only an ideological position or a philosophical position, but an expressly partisan position. Now, the position of Vivian Schiller, the CEO of NPR, last night it was that Juan was let go because he had made these comments on Bill O'Reilly's show.

    Today, after that had been widely criticized, she changed the rationale altogether. She said no, no, no. It's really not those comments. It's just the fact that he has expressed an opinion. If that's the case, how does Nina Totenberg, who is not an analyst, but a reporter, how does she possibly keep her job?

    And the final point, how does Vivian Schiller, after questioning with a smirk like we saw on that video, Juan Williams' sanity for saying the things he said, how does she possibly keep her job? I hope it's just not Republicans that call for her dismissal but they are joined by numerous Democrats. You can't do that kind of a thing in public. It's deeply irresponsible.

    BAIER: She said talk to a psychiatrist or a publicist.

    John Boehner, the minority leader, Charles, came out with a statement saying this -- "Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it's reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers' money to support a left wing radio network. And in the wake of Juan Williams' firing it's clearer than ever that's what NPR is."

    There are calls now to investigate this and to look at funding of NPR.

    KRAUTHAMMER: Well, even in the absence of this travesty, you’d have to ask why in the world would you have infinite media outlets of every expression, every kind of Internet broadcasting, are we subsidizing anybody, because obviously the opportunity is open to almost anyone?

    And, secondly, I think, this really is a travesty which raises a question of why we ought to be supporting indirectly a left wing organization. I have known Juan for 20 years. It isn't only that he doesn't have a bigoted bone in his body. It's that he has distinguished himself in his career writing and speaking in fighting against prejudice everywhere he has found it in every community.

    And to fire him over this and to make this a part of his record, I think, really is a scandal.