ATLANTA – Juan Williams said Friday he didn’t realize his comments about Muslims were controversial, and he didn’t expect that they would serve as the basis for his termination from NPR.
“I didn’t know that anyone was going to say this is the basis on which we’re going to fire you,” Williams, a former NPR news analyst, told Sean Hannity for his afternoon radio show, which is syndicated on News Talk WSB in Atlanta.
“They wanted me to apologize,” Williams said. “…What did I say that was wrong? What standard of journalism did I violate for telling you how I feel?”
Williams’ made the comments in question to Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“I’m not a bigot, you know, the kind of books I’ve written about the Civil Rights Movement and this country, Williams told host Bill O’Reilly. “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.”
On Thursday, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before addressing an Atlanta Press Club luncheon, said “there have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line.”
She also told the AJC: “We expect our journalists, whether they are news analysts or reporters to behave like journalists.”
Williams has been given a new contract with Fox News, according to published reports.