First, Bill O’Reilly, who has a TV show, goes on “The View,” another TV show.
O’Reilly says, “Muslims killed us on 9/11.”
Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, two hosts of “The View,” walk off in protest.
A few days later, O’Reilly invites Juan Williams, a radio personality, on his TV show.
They discuss O’Reilly’s “View” comments.
Williams didn’t think they were so bad, and admits that when he is on a plane and sees Muslims in traditional garb, “I get worried. I get nervous.”
Williams – for making those comments about Muslims – is fired from his job at National Public Radio.
O’Reilly, who was not fired for his comments about Muslims, criticizes the firing.
Vivian Schiller, the CEO of NPR, says Williams violated its ethics policy. She also says that Williams’ feelings about Muslims should be between him “and his psychiatrist.”
Schiller later apologizes for her comments.
O’Reilly calls Schiller “a pinhead.”
O’Reilly does not apologize.
Somewhere in a cave, Osama bin Laden laughs.
And then the politicians weigh in…
Sarah Palin, who works for Fox News, says Williams should not have been fired.
Mike Huckabee, who works for Fox News, says Williams should not have been fired.
Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, offers Williams a big contract. With Fox News.
Ailes says Williams is “a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints.”
Williams, the staunch defender of liberal viewpoints, calls NPR leadership “left-wing.”
Williams accepts the Fox offer for $2 million over three years – and will sub-host O’Reilly’s program.
Jim DeMint, a South Carolina senator, calls for the government to stop funding NPR.
Newt Gingrich calls for Congress to stop funding NPR.
Palin tweets, “NPR should receive NO fed tax dollars if it operates as intolerant, private radio. Mr. President, what say you?”
There is no tweet back from the president.
Somewhere in a cave, bin Laden laughs.
And another drama plays out…
Goldberg, who walked off her show after O’Reilly’s comment about Muslims, says Williams’ comment about Muslims was “OK.”
She doesn’t explain how one is insulting but the other is not.
Williams, who says he was just expressing his feelings, doesn’t explain why his feelings have anything to do with anything.
And O’Reilly, who once, in anger at San Francisco citizens over a vote, said, “If al-Qaida comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it,” never explains how you can say you love your country and still hate the liberal half of it.
Meanwhile, Williams joins a list of people – Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Dr. Laura – who were recently departed for sentences that came out of their mouths.
And their exits were bigger stories than anything they’d done in their careers.
Some people say these are First Amendment issues. Some say they are conservative-liberal issues.
I think this all has to do with attention – the fear of it, the desire for it. Everyone wants to HAVE the story, they just don’t want to BE the story. Williams being an embarrassment for NPR makes him a hot commodity for Fox. All the news media outlets grateful they’re not in the spotlight can’t wait to hit the hot light button on someone else.
And now this incident will be used in the upcoming elections, to try to show that one side is wrong and the other is right.
But think about it. This whole thing is over comments made by a TV host and a radio host, and a feeding frenzy of people desperate to use any flame to increase their fire. And this should affect our vote?
Come on. We are the best country in the world. But we are the only country so media-soaked that we would turn these isolated sentences into a national referendum.
Somewhere in a cave, bin Laden laughs – because the uglier and angrier we get, the happier he is.
And that’s the saddest part of all.
Contact MITCH ALBOM: email@example.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).