Transcript, “Juan Williams Blasts Censorship, Argues Students, Citizens Need Open Avenues to Exchange Ideas”

Juan Williams:  I think sex is the most fun, but next to sex its a great debate.  

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Juan Williams: Hi.  I’m Juan Williams.  I’m a journalist and an author.  Currently I am the political analyst for Fox News Channel.  Muzzled is a story of my firing from National Public Radio, for making comments that they deem to be bigoted and offensive, and led to them demeaning me as not only a bad journalist but a bigot.  NPR fired me in 2010 after I had appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s TV show.  In the course of a discussion about the placement of a mosque at Ground Zero in New York in which O’Reilly had gotten himself into some trouble by saying Muslims are to blame for 911, and then people saying well no it wasn’t all Muslims, and he said it wasn’t all Muslims he was talking about the people who were in the planes.  

And I said, “Well, you know Bill I’m not going to play any politically correct games with you.  I don’t think he went wrong.  I mean the people who were in the planes were Muslims.  I don’t think you could ignore that fact, and not only that, 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.  When I get on a plane, I’ve got to tell you if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”  Now I went on to have a more lengthy discussion about we need to make sure that we’re not violating anybody’s religious liberties. That is part of our essential American character and constitutions.  Two days later NPR fired me, and in fact called me a bigot, and went on to demean me.  The President of NPR saying that whatever I say should be between me and my psychiatrist,  and the suggestion was I was a bad journalist who did not know how to really string a couple of words together, and I was offending people unnecessarily.

Vivian Schiller: Juan feels the way he feels.  That is not for me to pass judgment on.  That is really his feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist or take your pick.

Rep. Keith Ellison: I mean it’s just an ugly bigoted statement, and sadly Juan Williams has taken a bat to all of the work he ever did around civil rights.  I just really feel he has dishonored his legacy to that extent.

Juan Williams: There are so many layers to this, but the one that leaps out at you is, this man is crazy.  This man is in need of psychiatric attention because he speaks so candidly and apparently thinks it is acceptable to the American people and to my audience at National Public Radio that he would tell people what he feels.  So it was taken in abstract, removed from the larger context, the comment.  It was not put in the full so that people could appreciate that this was part of a larger conversation and argument about how we view Muslims and whether or not you could locate a mosque at Grounds Zero in New York.  It was just taken in isolation and treated as Juan Williams making an offensive comment, and now it is also the basis of us being able to conclude that he is a nut.

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Juan Williams: The state of debate and discourse in the United States today is at the moment in drastic need of attention and support for the whole notion of free speech.  I am shocked sometimes at how much it is the case that people basically want to hear preexisting opinions and attitudes confirmed, and how elites will tell people you cannot say that, that you are a bad person for even thinking that.  And you are to be marched off as if you were to go to a re-education camp in some other era in some awful communist country.  And they do this apparently thinking that they are in the right.  They are self-righteous about it.  

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. Shouldn’t young people – especially our very best and brightest who are in our colleges and universities – shouldn’t they be the ones who are engaged in the most vigorous and dynamic exchange of ideas and testing out the flaws in their lines of thinking with each other and with their professors?  Shouldn’t they be reading everything they can get their hands on? Shouldn’t they be engaged in the most lively and wacky and sometimes even offensive debates?  Because that’s what your brain needs.  So when I look at the state of debate and the free speech on college campuses, I find it chilling.  I think who came up with this idea, such a poisonous idea, when you think of the vine of human knowledge this could kill us.

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Juan Williams: Literally you could not have had a civil rights movement if people were not allowed to speak out and speak freely.  There was all sorts, all manner of attempts to shut down the civil rights movement by shutting down people who spoke in opposition to laws of segregation.  If you will recall, the seat of so many civil rights activities was in the church and there is a reason for that.   The church in a sense was protected space for free speech and especially when it was clothed in the language of the gospel.  But it was delivering a message of liberation, and it was in fact reaching across racial lines because of the common vision of Christianity.  

If you put it in those terms, you understand how critically important free speech is to every movement, because that story that I’m telling you about civil rights also attends to things like women’s rights in this country, gay rights in this country.  It attends to every movement for greater equality and fulfillment of the American dream.

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Juan Williams: I think sex is the most fun but next to sex it is a great debate because the back and forth, the exchanges, the moments of thrill, of insight that take you away.  I mean I just think that is what having consciousness is about.  So that idea that we have come to be somehow inert or accustomed to not engaging in that level of debate where we see it as discomforting or upsetting to me is just nuts.  It is like saying I prefer not being alive.  I prefer not thinking.  I prefer not having the rush of wind in my face.  It’s just crazy.  

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Duration:  8 Minutes