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We Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Juan Williams and Bill O'Reilly

If anyone still needed proof that taxpayer-funded public broadcasting is obsolete and has a negative effect on discourse in America, leftwing NPR provided it on Wednesday. Firing Juan Williams in a spasm of politically correct intolerance, NPR made the case for ending taxpayer support for itself and public broadcasting at large. 

It also serves as a reminder that America’s P.C. police are preventing a serious discussion about Islam, Islamism, jihadism and terrorism, and how the U.S. will defend itself.

Williams’s offense was a remark on Fox News Channel's “The O’Reilly Factor.” He said: “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 got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

The comment came as part of an ongoing, thoughtful discussion with O’Reilly and another guest about jihadists and Muslims. 

Williams was fired over the phone and refused even the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting.

Williams, who is one of the more liberal voices contributing analysis on Fox News, was merely discussing a frequent and normal feeling that most Americans and others around the world feel.--Anyone watching, who possesses common sense, knows that Williams was not advocating intolerance of the innocent, nor was he expressing anti-Muslim sentiment.

Rather, Williams and O’Reilly were doing something vital for our future: trying to contribute to a debate that is long overdue in America. More than nine years after the September 11 attacks on the U.S., we have yet to fully grasp the nature of political Islam, its distinction from Islam the religion, and how to defeat the Islamist political ideology that drives terrorists.

This is yet another issue where the Washington establishment and U.S. administrations -- of both political parties -- have failed America.

George W. Bush missed the point in reducing the contest between violent Islamists and the civilized world to a non-specific “War on Terror.” All the while, he preached that we were not at war with Islam -- as if we didn’t know that.

President Obama has done no better in presuming that apologizing for purported American sins abroad will have any effect on Islamist terrorist or their enablers.

Ironically, NPR’s political correctness will actually make things worse for American Muslims. Like the rest of us, they would be better served by a debate that gets all of the issues out in the open—preferably without a lot of high-minded drama and posturing—and begins to hammer home our common cause against the Islamists who wish to unify mosque and state and create a global tyranny like that in Iran.

By fanning political correctness and identity politics, NPR backs American Muslims into a corner where they feel they cannot take a stand against Islamism without appearing to be backing down to alleged anti-Muslim sentiment.

NPR’s actions would be atrocious conduct for any news organization. What makes it worse is that NPR still inexplicably receives taxpayer funding. This comes from a combination of direct “grants” from organizations at the public trough like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to government funds that are filtered through universities and end up paying for NPR programming. In effect, U.S. taxpayers are being forced to fund a leftwing organization that is hampering public discourse of security issues.

NPR and other public broadcasting came of age in an era when there was no Internet, no cable, only three television networks, and far fewer radio news and commentary options. All of this has changed. It is time for NPR and all other taxpayer-subsidized broadcasters to stand on their own.

We owe Williams and O’Reilly a debt of gratitude for starting a discussion that is long overdue. 

Political correctness has helped us lose nine years in grasping as a nation how to defeat the latest tyrannical ideology to challenge American freedom and security. Let’s not waste another nine.

Christian Whiton is a former State Department senior adviser. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.

Christian Whiton is the president of the Hamilton Foundation.  He was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration and a policy advisor on the Giuliani and Gingrich presidential campaigns. He is author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War” (Potomac Books 2013).