I watch Fox because I want to know what the far right and Republican minds in the USA are thinking – ok what Rupert Murdoch is thinking - and it’s not pretty.
My one friend in my visits to Fox has been Juan Williams – who has been deemed as Murdoch’s token Liberal (that is Liberal in US terms) amongst the mad men such as Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck and Sean Hannity – the high priests in Rupert’s scary church. What he did was bravely and alone offer a fair and balanced non-Republican view on a station that slavishly follows Murdoch’s far right agenda.
Now all that has changed. Williams apart from being a Fox contributor was till last week a broadcaster on NPR – the supposedly liberal radio news network.
He was fired because in a TV debate with Bill O’Reilly in which he denounced the self-opinionated presenter’s phrase that “Muslims” were responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks – they were Al Qaeda members said Williams – he went on to say if after the attacks he saw somebody who was obviously a Muslim on his flight he was nervous.
For that NPR sacked him but the fact is the majority of US citizens feel the same way. I flew several times in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and shared his fear. It doesn’t make me anti-Muslim just a nervous flyer who at that time felt even more nervous still.
Back at the time when black on black crime in New York was rife Jesse Jackson said: “There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
Nobody is going to be so stupid as to suggest that Jackson is anti-black any more than Williams (or I come to that) are anti-Muslim.
Needless to say there is now a furore in the USA over William’s sacking – with the flames being stoked up by Fox News. There are calls for NPR to lose any government funding it might receive – calls that may well be answered by Congress after the mid-term elections. Fox will certainly try to insist they address the question.
There are two tragedies here. First that Juan Williams, a fair and decent man who has broadcast with NPR for over a decade, has been sacked for his remark. Secondly that Fox has used the opportunity to step in to the breach and give him what I read is a $2 million three year contract. He will now be their full-time token Liberal but one has to wonder how soon the novelty will wear off - for him and them – once his view of the world clashes as it only can with Murdoch’s world.
There is a third looming tragedy. Williams has been hurt by his treatment by NPR and whereas in the past he has distanced himself from his fellow Fox News colleagues he now embraces them as they want to embrace him. Two million is a lot of money and one has to question if Williams isn’t selling his soul in accepting the Murdoch dollar?
In his book “The Blair Years” Alastair Campbell recounts Australian PM, Paul Keating, talking to him about Murdoch when Tony Blair addressed his News Corp executives down under in 1995. He said: “You have to remember with Rupert, it’s all about Rupert. Rupert is number 1, 2, 3 and 4 as far as Rupert is concerned. Anna and the kids come next and everything else is a long, long way behind.”
On that basis Williams is not even on Murdoch’s radar except if he is paying the man $2 million he believes the return for him and Fox will be even greater. The frying pan may have been bad but is William’s prepared for the Fox fire?
(The above article appeared on October 25 2010 on The Comment Factory website).