In 2001, National Public Radio thought it was perfectly fine for one of their employees, Juan Williams, to appear as a pundit on Fox News, offering his opinions on the day's controversies and providing learned, left-leaning political analysis.
The same applied in 2002.
But on Oct. 20, 2010, it was no longer acceptable.
During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Williams admitted that whenever he was on a plane and saw a fellow passenger dressed in Muslim garb, he got a little nervous — a decidedly mainstream fear brought about by the terrible reality of our times.
But according to NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, Williams had violated the radio organization's code of ethics. Shortly after Williams' dismissal, Schiller and company sent out talking points to their affiliate stations, noting the specific section of NPR's code of ethics the journalist violated: "In appearing on TV or other media including electronic web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows, electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."
Days later, Schiller reiterated this point: "This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR's integrity and values as a news organization. Juan Williams' comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted, and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR's standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst."
She added, "After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act."
But while Schiller was clear about the reasons for why Williams was fired, she offered no explanation as to why NPR had allowed Williams — and NPR staffer Mara Liasson — to appear on Fox News' Special Report program for years. Hmm.
Now, I understand the feelings Williams so clearly expressed. I've felt the same fear myself. But then again, a lot of people make me nervous, not just guys in Muslim garb.
Like street preachers, for instance. Whenever these kind-hearted souls stop me on the sidewalk and ask me point blank if I know Jesus, well, I get a little freaked out. And with good reason.
I went to Sunday school. I watch South Park. I think "Jesus is Just Alright" is a kick-ass tune. I cried when Aslan died and E.T. rose from the grave. So, yes, I know Jesus. Who doesn't? More importantly, who thinks that there is a soul out there who hasn't heard about the Son of God — at least here in the South? Clearly, only someone who lives in a different reality from you and I. And that's the kind of person I try to avoid at all costs. At the very least, I make sure I'm well out of stabbing range when I walk by them.
I also get nervous when I see people riding bicycles down the wrong side of the street facing traffic. They are a danger not only to all the drivers but to themselves as well. Seriously, riding a pink girl's bike with a basket on the front is no way for a man to go out. Have some frikkin pride and face death on a more manly ride, pal.
And I hate to admit this, but the yoga-pants-wearing chicks who hike the Ravenel Bridge at 2:30 in the afternoon worry me too. I mean, I work. You work. Everybody I know either has a job or is retired. And yes, I'm including stay-at-home moms and dads as part of the workforce. But these gals? They're not at work or at home taking care of the kids. Clearly, they're training for something — the overthrow of the United States government perhaps? I don't know about you, but it's as clear as day to me that our enemies are building an army and they're doing it right here on American soil.
And nothing scares me more than the people who will gladly step into the voting booth on Election Day and blindly vote in races that they don't know diddly about. Think about it like this: Do you want your dog to program your DVR? Do you want to put a text-happy pre-teen behind the wheel of a car? Do you want a fast-food fry guy to slice your pufferfish? Of course you don't.
So please, on this Election Day, if you don't know any of the candidates in a given race, then don't vote in that race. Juan Williams and I scare easily.