Juan Williams was not surprised that NPR fired him this week – he said they wanted a reason to get him off the air—and told me the CEO's comments that he should talk to a "psychiatrist" was a low blow.
“I think they were looking for a reason to get rid of me. That they were uncomfortable with the idea that I was talking to the likes of Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity,” he told me on "GMA."
“I knew about their antagonism towards Fox. And I knew that they really didn’t like it, and as I said I have been there more than 10 years and I have seen managers come and go and who dealt with this issue. This current crew was really getting vicious,” Williams said.
NPR let Williams go after he said on Fox News that he becomes nervous when at an airport he sees “people who are dressed in Muslim garb and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims.”
Vivian Schiller, NPR’s CEO, said that Williams’ comments should have been “between him and his psychiatrist or his publicist” but she later apologized. Williams – who was clearly still upset when he watched Schiller’s comments this morning -- said that was too personal.
“I don’t understand why she has to get that low. You know she has an argument to make that I somehow violated some journalistic ethics that were values of NPR, make the case,” he said. “I think it is a very weak case.”
Williams -- who said he does not have a psychiatrist –-questioned why if NPR thought he “was such an erratic character” that this didn’t come up long ago.
“This is the most ridiculous thing because then, the people at NPR and others, they take this one statement and they somehow make it out that I am a bigot,” Williams said. “I mean it's unbelievable to me given the books that I’ve written, the things I have done in my life. And now all of a sudden I’m a bigot.”
Williams admitted he could have taken the extra step to clarify his statement by saying he knew those fears were irrational – but given the context of the six minute interview he didn’t think it was necessary.
“It is visceral, it’s a feeling. And I don’t say 'I’m not getting on the plane,' I don’t say 'you must go through additional security.' I don’t say I' want to discriminate against those people.' No such thing occurs. So to me it was admitting that I have this notion, this feeling in the immediate moment,” he said.
Williams – who just got a $2 million deal for three years with Fox News – said it is making him rethink his previous beliefs about the left wing.
“I’ve always thought the right wing were ones that were inflexible and intolerant and now I’m coming to realize that the orthodoxy at NPR, its representing the left,” he said.