Juan Antonio Williams (born April 10, 1954) is a Panamanian-born American journalist and political analyst for Fox News Channel. He also writes for several newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal and has been published in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and Time. He was a senior news analyst for National Public Radio (NPR) from 1999 until October 2010. At The Washington Post for 23 years, Williams has worked as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist, White House correspondent and national correspondent. He is a registered Democrat.
Williams is the author of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 (1987), a companion to the documentary series of the same name about the Civil Rights Movement; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary (2000), a biography of Thurgood Marshall, the first black American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States; and Enough (2006), which was inspired by Bill Cosby's speech at the NAACP gala, and deals with Williams' critique of black leaders in America, and as he puts it, the "culture of failure." Williams has received an Emmy Award and critical praise for his television documentary work and he has won several awards for investigative journalism and his opinion columns.
Williams was born in Colón, Panama, to parents Akin Jules William and Sharon Williams, who were both Panamanian. Juan graduated in 1972 from Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York where he became clerk of the student body, editor of the student paper and was captain of the baseball, cross-country and championship basketball team. He attended Haverford College, from which he graduated with a baccalaureate in philosophy in 1976.
Some days after Williams wrote a column defending Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas against sworn testimony by Anita Hill charging sexual harassment by Thomas, it was revealed that several female employees of the Post had filed sexual harassment charges against Williams. The paper took disciplinary action against Williams and published an apology by him. On November 2, 1991, Williams wrote: "It pained me to learn during the investigation that I had offended some of you. I have said so repeatedly in the last few weeks, and repeat here: some of my verbal conduct was wrong, I now know that, and I extend my sincerest apology to those whom I offended."
Williams joined NPR in 2000 as host of the daily afternoon talk show Talk of the Nation. He then served as senior national correspondent for NPR. In 2009, NPR's President and CEO Vivian Schiller requested Fox News stop identifying him as an NPR host after Williams commented on The O'Reilly Factor: "Michelle Obama, you know, she's got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going. If she starts talking...her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross". NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard maintained that: "Williams tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox."
NPR terminated his contract on Wednesday, October 20, 2010, two days after he made remarks on The O'Reilly Factor. He had commented, "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 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." According to NPR, the remarks were "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR." As to the reason for the termination of Williams' contract, NPR's President and CEO Vivian Schiller offered the following comment: "News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts..." On October 21, 2010, Schiller told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club that Williams' feelings about Muslims should be between him and "his psychiatrist or his publicist—take your pick." Schiller later apologized stating, "I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark."
Some observers have questioned whether NPR actually fired Williams for making the comments on Fox News, as opposed to making them in another forum. William Saletan of Slate.com compared the Williams situation to that of Shirley Sherrod, saying that both Sherrod and Williams had their words taken out of context in a way that made them appear racist and led to the loss of their jobs, except that Williams was victimized by liberals, rather than conservatives as in Sherrod's case. Saletan said that while Williams' confessed fears of Muslims were "unsettling", the context was Williams' argument that such fears should not be used to curtail the rights of Muslims or anyone else, and that Williams consistently argued that Muslims in general should not be blamed for the terrorist activities of Muslim extremists. NPR has been criticized by Williams and others for practicing a double standard in the firing, compared to their not firing Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg and other NPR reporters and analysts for their opinionated statements.
He has been a Fox News Contributor since 1997. He has appeared on Special Report with Bret Baier, FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace and regularly co-hosts The Five. He also regularly appears on The O'Reilly Factor and has served as a guest host in O'Reilly's absence. After NPR announced his termination from their network in October 2010, Fox News offered him a new $2 million (a "considerable" raise) three-year contract and an expanded role at their network that includes a regular guest-host role Friday nights on The O'Reilly Factor.
Following his firing from NPR, Williams appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and discussed his thoughts on how his role at Fox played into NPR's decision: "I don't fit in their box. I'm not a predictable black liberal. You [O'Reilly] were exactly right when you said you know what this comes down to. They were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I'm appearing on Fox News. They don't want me talking to you." On December 9, 2016, on Fox Business Channel, Stuart Varney asked Williams (half in jest), "Do you see yourself ever joining the Republican Party?" Williams answered, "I have two sons in the Republican Party, so, yes."
Williams is the recipient of an Emmy Award for his work in television documentary writing and has earned critical praise for a series of television documentaries including Politics: The New Black Power, A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom, Civil Rights and The Press, Riot to Recovery and Dying for Healthcare.
Williams' 1988 book, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954–65, was written with the Blackside production team as a companion to the first season of the PBS series Eyes on the Prize. His 2003 book, This Far by Faith, is also a companion to a PBS series.
Williams is a contributor to a number of national magazines, including Fortune, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Ebony magazine, TIME and GQ and frequents a wide range of television programs including ABC's Nightline, Washington Week on PBS, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Williams has spoken at the Smithsonian's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ended legal segregation in public schools, and was selected by the United States Census Bureau as moderator of its first program beginning its 2010 effort. He has received honorary doctorates from Lafayette College, Wittenberg University, and Long Island University, among other institutions.
Williams married Susan Delise in July, 1978. They are the parents of one daughter, Rae, and two sons, Antonio ("Tony") and Raphael ("Raffi"). Tony, who was a Senate page and intern for GOP Senator Strom Thurmond from 1996 to 1997, was a speechwriter and legislative correspondent for Republican Senator Norm Coleman from 2004 to 2006; in 2006, Tony ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Council of the District of Columbia, losing to Tommy Wells. The younger son, Raffi, studied anthropology and played lacrosse at Haverford College, his father's alma mater in Pennsylvania. He has worked for the House Rules Committee and as the communications director for Michigan Republican Dan Benishek's successful 2012 congressional campaign, and was a deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee. Raffi currently serves as press secretary to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.
Williams is the grandfather of twin girls, Pepper and Wesley.
Juan Williams has been active on the Haverford College Board of Managers, in the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, in the Washington Journalism Center, and sits on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Rights Coalition.
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