Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 28, 2009

JUAN WILLIAMS TARGETS MICHELLE OBAMA.... The things one learns watching Fox News.

During the January 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, NPR news analyst and Fox News political contributor Juan Williams again baselessly attacked first lady Michelle Obama, claiming that "her instinct is to start with this 'blame America' ... stuff." Williams asserted that "[i]f you think about liabilities for President [Barack] Obama that are close to him -- [Vice President] Joe Biden's up there -- but Michelle Obama's right there."

Williams continued: "[S]he's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking, as [Townhall Magazine contributor and Weekly Standard contributing blogger] Mary Katharine [Ham] suggested, her instinct is to start with this 'blame America,' you know, 'I'm the victim.' If that stuff starts to come out, people will go bananas, and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross."

In context, there was no reason for Juan Williams to launch into this nonsense. His comments weren't just baseless and cheap, they were also gratuitous. Michelle Obama hadn't said anything specific or done anything specific to draw Williams' ire, but O'Reilly was talking about the scrutiny she'll face in the national spotlight, and Williams thought it appropriate to use the opportunity to tie the First Lady to black nationalism and the politics of victimization -- just because he felt like it.

Naturally, Williams didn't (and couldn't) offer any evidence to back up his accusations against Michelle Obama. Worse, it's part of a pattern with him -- Williams has accused the First Lady of using "militant anger" before.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has a fascinating piece on Michelle Obama in the latest issue of the Atlantic, added a brief message to Williams: "It's a dangerous, dangerous thing to make a living running your mouth."

And Adam Serwer also had a very sharp item on this, noting, "Williams' statement makes me angry not because it's about Michelle, but because it's so manifestly not about her, but about black women in general."

We're way past the point at which it's reasonable to expect Fox News personalities to apologize to those they smear, but a) Juan Williams probably shouldn't expect any White House exclusives anytime soon, and b) the Obamas' "honeymoon" apparently never actually started, at least as far as the Republicans' news network is concerned.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

We're way past the point at which it's reasonable to expect Fox News personalities to apologize to those they smear, but a) Juan Williams probably shouldn't expect any White House exclusives anytime soon, and b) the Obamas' "honeymoon" apparently never actually started, at least as far as the Republicans' news network is concerned.

Actually, he may get an exclusive. The Obamans have a pattern of compulsively reaching out to mollify and co-opt their enemies.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on January 28, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

it's good to see that wan can exploit his misogyny into a "transferable skill" on the teevee...

Posted by: neill on January 28, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

If we had a neutral, let alone liberal, media, this jackass would be booted from his NPR "news analyst" slot -- for reasons of sheer incompetence if nothing else.

Posted by: Gregory on January 28, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

He's just working out his string: from PBS hack to FoxNews hack to Regnery hack ("I'm Black, and I'm Sorry")
Can't blame a whore for selling it if someone's buying it.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on January 28, 2009 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

it's good to see that wan can exploit his misogyny

Not misogyny precisely--his issues (a year's subscription's worth) appear to be with black women.

Posted by: shortstop on January 28, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

I'm so glad Fox news is easy to avoid here in Italy!
Aside from saying nasty, unfounded and rather loony things, the Fox commentators in general strike me as being profoundly un-American. They are clearly convinced that they represent some perceived "real" America, but their intolerance, shoddy reasoning and bloody-mindedness chafe against much that I hold to be American. I think they are all closet pinkos.

Posted by: Richard Greenslade on January 28, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

How long before his name becomes "Even Liberal Juan Williams"?

Posted by: martin on January 28, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

So when can we expect the new rug with a "Black Power" fist in the Oval Office? Or is Williams suggesting that Michelle is merely pretending to be the wonderful mother and somewhat shy First Lady, while deep inside just waiting for the moment to turn the Time Machine back to 1969?

Posted by: Danp on January 28, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Michelle who said she had never been proud of her country in her adult life? Didn't she kvetch to a bunch of Ohio single moms about the burdens she felt having to repay her student loans and having to spend $10K a year on ballet lessons for her daughters? If the economy is not palpably better 6 to 9 months from now Michelle will be made the Nancy Reagan, if not the Marie Antoinette, of this administration, better get used to it.

Posted by: loki on January 28, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams is one weird cat. With Juan Williams, it's all about "let me wear your wife's underwear" and "ooh, a sexy coma victim, don't have to buy HIM drinks" and "I want to drive my car straight into a school bus full of black children."

I have no eviddence to back up my claims. According to Juan Williams' journalistic ethics, I don't need to.

Posted by: slappy magoo on January 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams isn't a "fox nes personality" he is an NPR reporter and featured as such when he appears on Fox.

His weekly segment saturdays on NPR is devoted to taking potshots at Obama. I can't figure out why.

Posted by: grinning cat on January 28, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

"the Republicans' news network "

Fox Noise differentiates from CNN & MSNBC only in degree - not general direction.

If you believe otherwise, watch CNN with:
- Heidi Collins & Kyra Phillips competing with the MSNBC & Fox bimbos to show who is the least informed female program host.
- Wolf Blitzer bringing you the latest 'news' from the AIPAC/Likud perspective.
- Lou Dobbs showing that he is the CNN idiocy equivalent of Bill Orally.

If you believe otherwise, watch MSNBC with:
- JoKe Scarborough driveling rethugnican talking points
- Chris Matthews who is just wierd
- the rotating clowns in the afternoons who continue to validate the idea that you do not have to be intelligent or informed to be a network host
- David Schuster who just annoyed me so much that I will not watch that program

What exceptions are there on CNN, MSNBC, & Fox Noise to the idiots & rethug talking point echo chambers?
- Campbell Brown? I will never trust anyone married to Dan Senor (or Mary Matlin).
- Keith Olbermann
- Rachel Maddow who seems to be the only intelligent & informed host on any network

We get 10 hours a week of 'liberal' perspective to offset the 90+ hours of idiots. All hail the liberal cable networks!

Posted by: AngryOldVet on January 28, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

You can all pretend otherwise, but this New Yorker cover proves that I'm right.

Posted by: Juan Williams on January 28, 2009 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams should take stock. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd and it shows in his "stunningly shallow" commentaries.

Posted by: Ml Johnston on January 28, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

The "angry black man" meme is still highly effective with skittish white people who are willing to like black people as long as they don't complain about anything. Problem, though: laying this meme on Barack Obama is patently ludicrous given his obvious calm and good humor. People just won't buy it.

So, with the help of willing tools like Juan Williams, the hoary chestnut gets shifted to Michelle Obama, who had the fleetingly poor judgment to make the too-easily mischaracterized "first time I'm really proud" statement, and whose sharply arched eyebrows inspire some to aver that her expression is "angry." Of all the dumb things written by the right at the time of the Democratic convention, possibly the dumbest was (paraphrasing only slightly): "Sure, Michelle's speech sounded good-natured and positive. But watch it with the sound off and see how secretly angry she is!" Unfreakingbelievable.

Posted by: shortstop on January 28, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

WTF Juan Williams, are you on HEROIN?

Oh, and thanks Slappy for the non-sourced plausible/possible scoops on Juan himself. I'll be looking for the fantasy follow up to those and other stories proffered by Faux News Noise Machine. -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 28, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Please do not forget to point out that Juan Williams himself has sexually harrassed female coworkers to the point where he had to be disciplined by his bosses at the NYTimes and write an apology that was published in the paper. If he wants to smear Michelle Obama I think its only fair to bring up HIS past.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0D91F38F930A35752C1A967958260

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla on January 28, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams, Mara Liason and Fred Anderle (Local NPR sensible liberal) are the reasons I stopped giving to NPR.

Posted by: Klyde on January 28, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Did Michelle Obama say that she'd never been proud of her country before her husband was a presidential contender? Or did that suddenly never happen?

Posted by: marc on January 28, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Minor correction to sqwhiteinfla above.

Juan was at the Washington Post (before he went to NPR) back when he was a serial sexual harasser. "Several female employees had complained that Mr. Williams had harassed them with sexually explicit and hostile comments." About the same time, he attacked Anita Hill/defended Clarence Thomas in an Op-Ed piece.

Once again, it is time for Mr. Williams to say, "that his conduct had been 'wrong' and 'inappropriate'."

Posted by: Coyoteville on January 28, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Did Michelle Obama say that she'd never been proud of her country before her husband was a presidential contender? Or did that suddenly never happen?

What she said was this: “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback. Not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."

Of course, most of the media has edited this comment as dishonestly as you have.

Since Juan Williams wasn't able to present us with other examples to back up his allegations of Ms. Obama's ongoing seething rage and sense of victimhood, perhaps you'll be kind enough to do so. Be specific, please.

Posted by: shortstop on January 28, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

So long as Juan Williams and Mara Liason are on NPR, NPR will have to make do with no donations from me. Got the republican assholes they are catering to to donate a few hundred bucks. Since 2004, I spread that money around to various bloggers, instead.

Posted by: Blue Girl on January 28, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Did Michelle Obama say that she'd never been proud of her country before her husband was a presidential contender? Or did that suddenly never happen?

Not the way you seem to think it happened.

Posted by: Blue Girl on January 28, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

To Marc above, the actual* Michelle Obama quote is, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."

*Madison, WI 2/18/08

Posted by: Coyoteville on January 28, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Great post, Steve, thank-you.

During a recent Weekend Edition, Scott Simon introduced Juan as the author of "Eyes on the Prize," which Scott then characterized as the definitive history of the Civil Rights Movement. What the book is, in fact, is the indifferent companion to the excellent PBS documentary series.

Most of us consider Taylor Branch's three part history to be the definitive one, all three exquisitely written books I urge everyone to read. That Juan Williams has become the go to source for all things African-American is certainly a detriment to NPR's credibility.

I wouldn't go so far as to withdraw support from NPR, though; we need the idea of public radio to continue to exist even through those times when we wish, and work to make it better. For those of you younger folk who don't remember when there was no PBS or NPR, you have no idea how hard it was to get both of them created and what a ferocious battle its been keeping them going in the face of the implacable hatred they induce in the American right wing. The reason that they haven't been able to zero out funding for both or either is precisely that a majority of Americans continue to like what the public option produces, no matter how often and how furiously the Republicans keep insisting that only elites listen to, watch, or care about PBS and NPR.

Posted by: Leah on January 28, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Jes' cause black folks is able to get to the White House is no reason to go actin' uppity. It's hard nuff fo' me to please Massa Fox and Massa NPR without Miss Chelle Obama goin' on about her issues!

Posted by: Uncle Juan on January 28, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

I have often wondered if I was the only person on earth to notice that Juan William's is a self loathing idiot.

During the campaign, I often heard him ranting and raving like a loon with Sean Hannity in one breath, and trying to appear to be an impartial journalist on NPR with the other. (What's up with NPR?)

Me thinks that Juan is a relic of a bygone, go along to get along, token black person to spout conservative nonsense era.

Let's ignore him.

Posted by: Nashville_fan on January 28, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Uncle Juan," cut that shit out.

Posted by: shortstop on January 28, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

So long as Juan Williams and Mara Liason are on NPR, NPR will have to make do with no donations from me. Got the republican assholes they are catering to to donate a few hundred bucks. Since 2004, I spread that money around to various bloggers, instead.

My sentiments exactly, and I have communicated this several times to my local NPR affiliates here in SOCAL. It's interesting to see what your "membership" brings - absolutely no input into the decisions of the organizations you are allegedly a "member" of.

Posted by: Aeolus on January 28, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

NPR is quite horrible. Saturdays and Sundays are atrocious infotainment affairs, weekdays aren't much better. Recently I heard an interview wth a former reporter who said the culture is completely different. No real investigative journalism, most of it is personality based fluff pieces. I imagine the Bush admin appointees were able to do quite a makeover from the inside. Also PBS has been transformed by B-School hacks.

Posted by: grinning cat on January 28, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm so glad Fox news is easy to avoid here in Italy!"

It would be easy to avoid here if it weren't for liberal bloggers.

Posted by: in vino veritas on January 28, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't she kvetch to a bunch of Ohio single moms about the burdens she felt having to repay her student loans and having to spend $10K a year on ballet lessons for her daughters?

Yes, because no single mom has ever had student loans she had to pay back. In fact, it's so unheard of for anyone to have to take out a loan to attend college that all of those women thought Mrs. Obama must have been talking about a car loan, because that's the only kind of loan that working-class people ever get.

You really should get out more and maybe talk to a few people who aren't exactly like you once in a while. You'll be surprised at some of the things you find out about those mysterious "student loans" you seem so puzzled by.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 28, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK
In context, there was no reason for Juan Williams to launch into this nonsense.

Wrong. He is a Fox News "political contributor". There's all the context and reason required for this kind of baseless attack.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 28, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams is why I no longer donate to NPR.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 28, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you to sqwhiteinfla. I thought maybe people were going over the deep end by accusing Williams of hating black women, but that link provides further evidence to back up the claim.

I still remember seeing a clip on election night where Fox News cut to Williams to talk about how historic the night was for African Americans, and he went out of his way to mention that it's still a "center-right nation". Good grief.

Posted by: TG Chicago on January 28, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't that Juan Williams I saw with a tear in his eye on election day?
Now back to making money.

Posted by: Hornblower on January 28, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

There is one really good NPR station you can listen to anytime, secure in the knowledge that only Good Stuff will be heard: KKJZ, 88.1 FM, www.kkjz.org - America's last 100% all-the-time jazz station. Beats the daylights out of that magalomaniacal moron Larry Mantle over on KPCC.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 28, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "... We're way past the point at which it's reasonable to expect Fox News personalities to apologize to those they smear ..."

We are not, however, past the point where it's reasonable to expect NPR to fire a "news analyst" who engages in baseless, malicious, racist slander against the President's wife.

Juan Williams' remarks are as vicious, bigoted and offensive as Don Imus's comment about "nappy-headed hos" or the racist remarks by Rush Limbaugh that brought a quick end to his career as a sports commentator.

To all the commenters here who have said that they will withhold donations to NPR or their local NPR station, I suggest that you go further and do what I am going to do:

1. Write to NPR and demand that Juan Williams be fired immediately as an "NPR news analyst" for his comments that are not only malicious, racist lies, but are brazenly partisan Republican character-assassination propaganda of the most despicable kind. Tell NPR that featuring Rush Limbaugh / Michael Savage type racists on their "news" programming is unacceptable.

2. Write to your local NPR station -- especially if you are already a donor or "member" -- and let them know that you will not be giving them any support as long as NPR continues to employ Juan Williams.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 28, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

NPR is running their tri-annual donation periods right now.

I'd donate (more) if I could get them to dump Juan & Cokie. Both of them suck and are apologists & defenders of the bush43 ethics & priorities.

Posted by: kindness on January 28, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I just sent my very first letter to NPR, after listening for 15 years, about this issue. It's time to kick this frakker out of our public radio family and give his duplicitous words consequences.

I won't be withholding donations, however. My local station needs the money, and they don't choose the commentators. Enough letters should do it, I hope.

Posted by: Boliver on January 28, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I was not aware that Michelle had modified her comment about pride in America the way commenters have quoted it above. I agree that it does change the connotation of the quote in a more positive way. I stand by my overall point, though, Michelle does give off a hard left aura that Barack does not, and I do think Juan was correct that she will be a lightening rod if/when things start to get bad. She has put enough on the public record to justify this concern. One example, I'm sure Michelle was the main reason the family stayed for Jeremiah Wright's hate-whitey fests for so long.

Posted by: loki on January 28, 2009 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I stand by my overall point, though, Michelle does give off a hard left aura that Barack does not, and I do think Juan was correct that she will be a lightening rod if/when things start to get bad. She has put enough on the public record to justify this concern.

Has she? "Standing by" your "overall point" would be a little more defensible if you could provide a single concrete example of all this stuff you claim is "on the public record"...

One example, I'm sure Michelle was the main reason the family stayed for Jeremiah Wright's hate-whitey fests for so long.

...something a little more solid than your deepest inner feelings, please. Something you can provide an actual cite for rather than announcing that you believe it in your heart of hearts.

Posted by: shortstop on January 28, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I was not aware that Michelle had modified her comment about pride in America the way commenters have quoted it above.

Who said she modified the comment? That was the original comment. It's the anti-Obama crew that "modified" it, or more accurately clipped it.

Posted by: Danp on January 28, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Let's discuss another way in which Michelle's comment has been distorted. ""For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country . . "
If you interpret this to mean that she had never before been proud of her country, you're deliberately pretending not to understand a common, widespread use of the term "really." "Really" can be an intensifier, meaning "very," "extremely," etc. The remark in context means that although she might have been proud of her country in the past, this was the first time that she could be "REALLY proud" in the sense of "very proud, proud without misgivings or reservations, totally proud." Anyone who feels like that all the time is either totally unaware of American history and many of the realities in this country today or is in massive denial. No true patriot is uncritically proud at all times of everything her country does, especially if her country has been doing things recently like waterboarding. But there are times, when something inspiring and hope-inducing happens, that you can legitimately feel like that for awhile.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 28, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Standing by" your "overall point" would be a little more defensible if you could provide a single concrete example of all this stuff you claim is "on the public record"...

Why should a lying piece of shit wingnut ever have to provide actually factual evidence of anything?

As for that lying piece of shit Williams, he's nothing more than the Fauxnews house negro. Offensive? Who cares if he's offended? It's true.

Posted by: whatever on January 28, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

If you interpret this to mean that she had never before been proud of her country, you're deliberately pretending not to understand a common, widespread use of the term "really."

Wingnuts are really good at deliberately not understanding very simple things that conflict with their alternate reality.

Posted by: whatever on January 28, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I was not aware that Michelle had modified her comment about pride in America the way commenters have quoted it above.

She didn't "midify" her comment, you numbskull, that was her original comment, distorted by hundreds of dishonest right-wingers including yourself.

I second shortstop: If you're going to "stand by" your comment about her alleged "hard left aura" after its main prop has been kicked out from under it, cite some examples -- with sources, than you very much.

As for NPR, I share the disgust expressed by Blue Girl and others, but they very cleverly have public radio's audience over a barrel -- you support your local affiliate, which can, and often does, provide valuable programming in the arts and local culture, and the affiliate turns around and supports NPR.

I still give, but I make a point of not giving during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. If memory serves me right, the affiliates use the timing of the donations as a kind of popularity meter (and, of course, the NPR programming is smack in drive time). I usually donate during Car Talk or A Prairie Home Companion -- both of which, I'm sure, NPR needs more than they need NPR.

Posted by: Gregory on January 28, 2009 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Call your local NPR affiliate, if you aren't donating, and tell them why. I told mine that my money's going to the local food bank instead, because of Juan Williams's offensive comments on Fox.

The volunteer said, but we're not NPR. I told him I understood, but in good conscience I can't give them money that will go right out the door to NPR (where they buy about 85% of their programming) as long as NPR has Williams.

If you do this, ask the person on the phone to pass the word to management. Times are tough and we have to put our money where we think it will do the most good or the least harm.

And be kind to the volunteers. It's not their fault.

Posted by: Withhold it from NPR and tell them why on January 28, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Juan,

Next time an Indiana State Trooper pulls you over on Interstate 265 for no apparent reason and you hear, "Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times" over his loudspeaker, tell us all how proud of America you are after that.

Just some advice: tell the trooper where you keep your wallet, don't reach for it.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 28, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Juan Williams on NPR is an abomination. Every weekend he has a new fever-dream about how the Blagojevich scandal is going to bring Obama down - basically, different variations on someone knew someone who knew someone; or baseless assertiosn like "the Obama team is worried that they will be on the tapes." To make matters worse, the douchbag Scott Simon ususally just giggles along with him, then segues into a stupid joke about the corruption of Chicago politics. It is all quite nauseating, and I scream at the radio.

Posted by: bobbo on January 28, 2009 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Get used to it because they've just started. It's all they've got and all they'll do for the next 8 yrs...attack the Obamas.

Williams is the reason why I will never donate to NPR again...at least til they get rid of him. He gets his marching orders from Fox and they pay him well to drag the Fox crap onto NPR. They didn't hire him for his reporting...only for his complicity to the right wing agenda.

Nothing positive to say unless it is a mask to cover up what he's about to say to run down dems. Only petty people watch Fox new shows. Extremely petty watch O'Reilly and Hannity.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 28, 2009 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

I guess loki's still looking for some examples of all that stuff "on the public record." Who knew it would be so hard?

Posted by: shortstop on January 29, 2009 at 7:19 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly