William Saletan defends himself against myself and Ta-Nehisi and focuses on the crucial point:
But where did Williams say irrational fear of Muslims is justified?
He said it in the very quote Will cites:
When I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb, and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America's war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts.
By directly juxtaposing people just dressed in Muslim garb with a Times Square bomber threatening war between the US and all Muslims, and saying "I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts," he was legitimizing his nervousness, not confessing it. I see no other way to interpret those remarks, although of course he contradicted himself elsewhere in the conversation. He then had a chance to repudiate or retract the connection in the quote above and refused. Moreover, I did not call Williams a bigot, as Will claims. I said the quote above was bigoted, and that in my view, Williams was not, so far as I could see, a bigot. Will goes on:
I look forward to a world in which no American fears a Muslim on a plane. I hope writers like Coates, Sullivan, and me will help us get there. But in the meantime, we face more immediate threats. One is the small number of Americans who think their raw fear or anger at Muslims justifies violence. Another is the very large number of Americans, including dozens of congressional candidates and the next speaker of the House, who think Muslims shouldn't build a mosque in a place that strikes the majority as "insensitive." The task before us is to defuse such violence and discrimination by encouraging reflection on the emotions that underlie them. And to reflect on those emotions, we need to be honest about them. Williams' conversation with O'Reilly was part of that process. He shouldn't have been fired for it, and he doesn't deserve to be called a bigot. Eventually, I think Coates and Sullivan will agree.
Robert Wright, on the other hand, compares Juan Williams's comments about Muslims to homophobia.
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