Three years ago this week, journalist and author Juan Williams was fired from his job at National Public Radio (NPR) for remarks he made on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. The controversy led to a national debate about the role free and open expression plays within journalism and broader American society.
In an interview with FIRE, Williams expands on the themes explored in his 2011 book, Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, which discusses his firing from NPR and how those events represent a larger trend within our national discourse.
Williams argues that debate and discussion are in dire need of protection here in America.
“I am shocked sometimes at how much it is the case that people basically want their pre-existing opinions and attitudes confirmed,” says Williams, “and how elites will tell people, ‘You cannot say that,’ that ‘you are a bad person for even thinking that.’”
Particularly worrisome for Williams is the state of free speech on college campuses.
“You have the educated class—especially at our colleges and universities—who for some reason take it to themselves that they are going to be protective of these young people, to the point of shielding them from ideas and actions that are potentially offensive,” says Williams.
A scholar of the civil rights movement, Williams also talks extensively in the interview about the role of free expression in ending segregation and securing equal rights for women and minorities.
A complete transcript of the interview is available.