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Video: GOP’s top dogs pounce on NPR

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    MATT LAUER, co-host: Now the fallout over National Public Radio 's decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams over a remark he made on another network. He says he was just speaking his mind. NBC 's Norah O'Donnell is in Washington with the latest. Norah , good morning.

    NORAH O'DONNELL reporting: Hey, good morning, Matt. NPR is now under fire for dumping Juan Williams after his comments about Muslims on Fox News and the right has declared war on NPR . Bill O'Reilly , Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee all want to starve NPR of the limited public funding that's part of its budget and Newt Gingrich wants Congress to investigate.

    Unidentified Reporter: Juan Williams fired by NPR .

    Mr. KARL ROVE: They have to cast him now in a particularly, I think, vulgar and pitiful way.

    O'DONNELL: On cable TV Thursday night...

    Mr. GLENN BECK: It's insanity.

    O'DONNELL: ...an angry chorus defending fired news analyst Juan Williams .

    Mr. BILL O'REILLY: Juan Williams was not giving an opinion about Muslims on airplanes, he was simply stating what he felt.

    O'DONNELL: Williams , a long-time fixture on cable and radio, was fired from his NPR analyst gig for these comments he made about Muslims on Monday.

    Mr. JUAN WILLIAMS: 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, but when I get on a plane, I've 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.

    O'DONNELL: Williams is unapologetic, calling it political correctness run amok.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: The fact that here I am engaging you, Bill O'Reilly , right...

    Mr. O'REILLY: Right.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: ...and we're having an honest discussion. This is what America should be.

    Mr. O'REILLY: OK.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: People having a real debate.

    O'DONNELL: In a leaked internal memo, NPR boss Vivian Schiller says they fired Williams because "news analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues."

    Ms. VIVIAN SCHILLER: His feelings that he expressed on Fox News are really between him and his, you know, psychiatrist or his publicist or take your pick, but it is not compatible with a news analyst.

    O'DONNELL: Schiller later apologized for her psychiatrist comment. But Williams has been offering his opinion for a decade on Fox and his firing unleashed fury on the right, which has long accused NPR of liberal bias. Sarah Palin tweeted, " NPR defends First Amendment right but will fire you if you exercise it." But there was also support from the left. Whoopi Goldberg , who stormed off " The View " when O'Reilly last visited, agrees with him on this one.

    Ms. WHOOPI GOLDBERG: In all of our opinions, it seems, the firing of Juan was a total mistake and sends the wrong message.

    O'DONNELL: Williams is just the latest TV personality dumped for controversial comments about race and religion, like Rick Sanchez and Helen Thomas .

    Ms. MATEA GOLD (Tribune Washington Bureau): Any time there is this kind of public intersection of debate about the role of Muslims and terrorism, it is a real fear in our society right now.

    O'DONNELL: Now Williams is no worse off after his firing from NPR and Fox -- in fact, Fox has announced it is expanding his role and giving him a fat raise, a new three-year contract for nearly $2 million. Matt :

Image: Juan Williams
Richard Drew  /  AP
News analyst Juan Williams appears on the "Fox & Friends" show in New York on  Thursday.
By
updated 10/22/2010 8:48:42 AM ET 2010-10-22T12:48:42

Less than 24 hours after NPR fired Juan Williams over comments about Muslims he made earlier in the week on Fox News, the cable channel announced on Thursday that it has signed Williams to a fat new contract.

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Williams, who has served as a regular contributor on Fox News since 1997, got a new multi-year deal from the cable channel. Terms were not disclosed, but a source close to the network said Williams is getting a pay hike that will net him close to $2 million a year over three years. (The Los Angeles Times was the first to report Williams' new deal.)

“Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at FOX News in 1997," FNC chief Roger Ailes said in a statement announcing Williams' new deal. "He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by FOX News on a daily basis.”

From TheWrap.com: Transcript of Rick Sanchez's Sirius meltdown

Williams told Bill O’Reilly on Monday that he gets “nervous” on planes when he sees people who are in “Muslim garb.” Those comments led to his termination from NPR on Wednesday.

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Williams — who responded to his firing from NPR earlier in the day on Fox News — will be a guest O'Reilly's "Factor" on Thursday and will guest-host the show on Friday. (By my count, Williams will have appeared on Fox News Thursday at least three different times.)

Video: Off-color comments land Juan Williams Fox contract (on this page)

Meanwhile, NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller apologized for a comment she made about Williams at an Atlanta Press Club appearance earlier in the day. During the event, Schiller suggested Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist."

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"I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark," Schiller said in a statement later Thursday.

She did not apologize, however, for the memo she sent to NPR affiliates, also on Thursday, in which she claimed that this "isn’t the first time" NPR has had "serious concerns about some of Juan’s public comments," and that his firing was not of one isolated event.

Story: Fox, others defend Williams over Muslim remarks

Copyright 2012 by TheWrap.com

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