Juan Williams shouldn’t have been working for NPR in the first place. That’s not because he’s too Fox-y, it’s because he’s too thick. He doesn’t have an interesting mind, so he doesn’t have interesting things to say.
NPR quite likes that, up to a point – it doesn’t want its people to sound “too” intelligent or curious or thoughtful. I know that because almost none of them do. A Nina Totenberg probably couldn’t get hired there today – she sounds too sharp and too unplacating. NPR seems to want only people who won’t intimidate listeners by sounding possibly cleverer than the listeners are.
I suspect that’s why they liked Juan Williams in the first place – he has that warm, furry, cozy, slow, soporific note to his voice that nearly all NPR on-air people do. But it turns out he’s just soporific without being “nice.”
My first awareness of Williams (apart from knowing he wrote Eyes on the Prize – which was a pretty impressive credential) was when he replaced Ray Suarez on NPR’s show Talk of the Nation. I had been listening to that show pretty regularly, because Suarez was brilliant – he did a lot of homework, he was interested, he was curious, he could think on his feet, he gave a damn – he was just great. Williams was a shocking contrast. He obviously did no homework at all, he wasn’t curious, his questions were random and uninteresting, and he couldn’t even understand what his guests said. He would say, “So you’re saying X,” and while I ground my teeth in fury the hapless guest would say, “No, I’m saying Y,” and re-state what she had just said.
He’s just thick. He’s no good. NPR should never have hired him as an “analyst” in the first place. They should stop with the cozy approach and dare to hire intelligent people, however scare or intimidating they may sound. People like that will have no interest in being on Fox.