Juan Williams was a senior correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) from 2001 until October 2010. He is currently a panelist on Fox News Sunday, appears frequently on the Fox News Channel, and co-hosts the syndicated TV show America’s Black Forum.
Williams was born in April 1954 in Colon, Panama. When he was four, he and his family moved to Brooklyn, where his father found work as an accountant and his mother worked as a secretary and seamstress.
In 1976 Williams graduated from Harvard College with a degree in philosophy. That same year, he was hired by the Washington Post, where during a 23-year career he would work as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist, and White House reporter. He also began appearing as a liberal pundit on various political radio and television discussion shows.
In 1991 Williams sparked controversy during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who had been accused of sexual harassment by his former co-worker Anita Hill.
“Here is indiscriminate, mean-spirited mudslinging supported by the so-called champions of fairness: liberal politicians, unions, civil rights groups and women’s organizations,” wrote Williams in a blistering column in the October 10, 1991 Washington Post that shocked his comrades on the left. “They have been mindlessly led into mob action against one man by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.” Thomas’ foes, wrote Williams, were practicing “gutter politics. … In pursuit of abuses by a conservative president the liberals have become the abusive monsters.” He added that the establishment media in general, and NPR in particular, had “sacrificed journalistic balance and integrity for a place in the mob.”
Williams’ outspoken criticisms of the Left “then brought down all the heavens on me, in terms of the civil rights establishment,” he told Brit Hume in a 2002 interview. “… [P]eople then attacked me. … [T]here were all sorts of questions about my behavior — have you told any flirtatious jokes, who have you flirted with at the paper? All sorts of accusations.”
At the liberal Washington Post, 50 female employees came forward, some to accuse Williams of verbal sexual harassment, others to press management to punish or fire him. “It pained me to learn during the investigation that I had offended some of you,” wrote Williams in an open letter of apology reported in the Washington Post on November 2, 1991. “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. I have committed to Post management, and I commit to you — and to myself — to change my ways.”
Williams again drew fire from the Left because his 1998 book Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary discussed unverified rumors of this first African-American Supreme Court Justice’s purported marital infidelity and sexual misconduct.
In 1996 Williams became a host of the syndicated television news and interview program America’s Black Forum, which he continues to co-host. Among his co-hosts over the years was NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.
In 1997 Williams became, and remains to this day, a regular panelist representing the Left on Fox News Sunday and a frequent commentator on the Fox News Channel. During the impeachment trial of Democratic President Bill Clinton and thereafter, Williams defended the President with great ardor.
In 1999 Williams parted ways with the Washington Post. The following year he was hired by National Public Radio to host its call-in program Talk of the Nation. When that show ended in 2001, Williams became a senior correspondent for the NPR shows Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
Williams has written four books in addition to the one about Thurgood Marshall. These include: Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 (1987); This Far By Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience (2003); My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience (2004); and Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America — and What We Can Do About It (2006).
Williams has also written several documentaries that aired on PBS, among them the Emmy-winning From Riot to Recovery (1989); Politics — The New Black Power (1990); and A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom (1996). The latter is Williams’ lionization of the black labor leader and Socialist Party activist-candidate.
In October 2010, Williams was fired by NPR after making some controversial remarks during an October 18th appearance on The O’Reilly Factor. The host, Bill O’Reilly, called jihad “the biggest threat on the planet” and asked Williams to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Williams agreed with O’Reilly and said:
“I mean, 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.”
In the same interview, Williams also made reference to a Pakistani Muslim immigrant who, earlier that month, had pleaded guilty to charges that he had tried to plant a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. Said Williams: “He [the would-be car bomber] 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.”
After Williams’ termination by NPR, Fox News signed the analyst to a new three-year contract worth nearly $2 million. “Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997,” said Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes. “He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”
In an August 3, 2014 appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Williams claimed the Republicans had unfairly “demonized” Barack Obama by characterizing as “lawless” the president’s use of executive actions to change existing immigration laws and alter numerous provisions of Obamacare. Then he depicted Tea Party conservatives as racists:
“If you look at the core constituency — the people who are in, let’s say, tea party opposition, support of impeachment — there’s no diversity. It’s a white, older group of people. I would say if you just break it down as a matter of political analysis and say, ‘Who is this group?’ It reminds me that the Republican Party has become almost a completely white party…. The core constituency — the people who want him impeached — they’re almost all white, and they’re all older and guess what? They’re all in the the far-right wing of the Republican Party.”