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NPR Fires Juan Williams; Fox News Expands His Role

Fox News has re-signed Juan Williams to an expanded role with the network in a multi-year deal, Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, announced Thursday after National Public Radio fired Williams for his comments on the O'Reilly Factor Monday night, when he said it makes him nervous to fly on airplanes with devout Muslims.

Williams, who will guest host The O’Reilly Factor on Friday night, appeared with O’Reilly on the show Thursday night.

"They take something totally out of context," Williams said Thursday night, adding that his point was that Americans must come to grips with their prejudices.

"I have always thought of journalism, in a way, as a priesthood. you honor it you protect it," he said, before criticizing his former employer. "These people don't have ay sense of righteousness, of what's right here. They're self righteous."

Williams said NPR wanted to get rid of him because of his contributions to Fox News.

"I don't fit in their box," he said "I'm an unpredictable black liberal."

Ailes, in making his announcement, said, “Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997. He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”

NPR terminated Williams in the wake of a discussion he had with O'Reilly concerning the dilemma between fighting jihadists and fears about average Muslims.

"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," Williams said Monday.

"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."

Williams also commented on remarks by Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad warning Americans that the fight is coming to the U.S.

"He said the war with Muslims, America's war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts," Williams said.

NPR issued a statement Wednesday night saying that it was "terminating" Williams' contract over the remarks.

"Tonight we gave Juan Williams notice that we are terminating his contract as a senior news analyst for NPR News," CEO Vivian Schiller and Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss said in a statement.

"Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret. However, his remarks on 'The O'Reilly Factor' this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," they said. "We regret these circumstances and thank Juan Williams for his many years of service to NPR and public radio."

Williams said Thursday he wasn't given the chance to have a face-to-face conversation with his superiors at NPR before he was let go.

Recalling a conversation with NPR's head of news, Williams said he was told, "This has been decided up the chain."

"I said, 'I don't even get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball to eyeball, person to person and have a conversation. I've been there more than 10 years. We don't have a chance to have a conversation about this.' And she said, 'There's nothing you can say that will change my mind. This has been decided above me and we're terminating your contract,'" Williams recounted to Fox News.

Williams said that he meant exactly what he said about his fears during his appearance on O'Reilly's show.

"I do a double take. I have a moment of anxiety of fear given what happened on 9/11. That's just a reality," he said, noting that when he told his former boss, she suggested that Williams had made a bigoted statement.

"It's not a bigoted statement. In fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O'Reilly, I said we have an obligation as Americans to be careful to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in our country and to make sure that we don't have any outbreak of bigotry. but that there's a reality. You can not ignore what happened on 9/11 and you cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism, and you can't ignore the fact of what has even recently been said in court with regard to this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war in America."

Watch Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" at 8 pm ET Thursday night for an interview with Juan Williams.

The conversation on O'Reilly's show stemmed from a well-publicized argument the previous week between O'Reilly and "The View" hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, who walked off their own set when O'Reilly said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11."

The comment had been an explanation by O'Reilly why the majority of Americans don't want a mosque housed in an Islamic cultural center built near Ground Zero.

The women, who argued that Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh wasn't a Muslim, returned after O'Reilly said that he was -- perhaps inartfully -- talking about Muslim extremists.

The conversation has been fodder for both shows. Goldberg appeared Wednesday night on "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren," and said when she cursed at O'Reilly on air -- a word that was bleeped for broadcast -- she knew she was beyond reason and had to leave.

"He wasn't thoughtful and he knew he wasn't thoughtful and once he said, 'if I offended someone I apologize' ... it showed me that he recognized it," she said.

"But he knew that for us it was not ok. ... He got what he wanted and I don't feel bad about doing it. Should I have sat and just bit my tongue? I don't think I could because it was too much like all the things I heard about black folks and women," Goldberg said, adding that she has no hard feelings and planned to appear on O'Reilly's show in a few weeks..

Williams, a liberal African American commentator who has written extensively on civil rights in America, previously got in trouble with NPR for comments he made while appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" in February 2009. At that time, he described first lady Michelle Obama as having a "Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going."

Carmichael was a black activist in the 1960s who coined the phrase "Black Power."

After the Carmichael quote, Williams' position at NPR was changed from staff correspondent to national analyst.

Watch Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" at 8 pm ET Thursday night for an interview with Juan Williams.

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