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Fired NPR analyst Juan Williams was disciplined for making ‘inappropriate’ sexual comments to female staffers

By John Byrne
Friday, October 22, 2010 8:50 EDT
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Sexually-themed comments about female Washington Post staff apparently went on for years

Juan Williams, the NPR contributor who was fired Thursday after making anti-Muslim comments on Fox News, apologized for “wrong” and “inappropriate” comments about women staffers after a 1991 investigation by The Washington Post, Raw Story has found.

The investigation of Williams’ conduct stemmed from multiple occasions on which he made sexually-themed comments to female employees. An article published about the incidents was vague about what comments Williams actually made, though it makes clear that the sexually-oriented remarks came up on numerous occasions — and that his behavior had allegedly gone on for several years.

It’s also apparent that the female staff of The Washington Post was so incensed about how the paper was dealing with it that they brought their concerns to management.

At least seven women went on the record to say that Williams had made inappropriate comments to them.

One Post magazine editor went so far as to say that Juan Williams “was obsessed with my sex life and that’s all he wanted to talk to me about . . . . I raised my voice at him and said, ‘Just don’t talk to me again.’ ”

A second editor was quoted as saying that Williams had been “nothing but nasty to me.”

“Seven women said in on-the-record interviews yesterday that Williams had repeatedly made hostile and sexually explicit comments to them, in some cases over a period of several years,” the Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote in a Nov. 2, 1991 piece. “All of them said they believed the comments were meant to embarrass them, not an attempt to date them, and most said that Williams persisted despite their protests.”

Williams apologized for his behavior in early November 1991 after an investigation by the paper. He said that the Post had disciplined him for what he himself described as “wrong” and “inappropriate” statements towards the Post’s female staff.

“It pained me to learn during the investigation that I had offended some of you,” Williams penned in an open letter to employees. “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.”

“There was no suggestion that I ever engaged in offensive physical contact, or that I attempted to abuse my position at The Post, or that I discussed pornographic materials, or called women employees at home, or the like,” Williams averred, adding, “I do not mean to belittle the inappropriateness of the verbal conduct which I have acknowledged.”

Noted Kurtz, “Williams’s letter came several hours after about 50 female employees met with Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and said they objected to The Post’s refusal to say how the paper had resolved allegations of verbal sexual harassment against Williams. The newspaper’s management has maintained that such personnel inquiries must remain confidential.”

“Downie said in a letter to the staff, which was posted in the newsroom with Williams’s letter last evening, that ‘the complaints about Juan’s verbal conduct with a number of women in the newsroom were thoroughly investigated. The complaints were found to be serious, and, as Juan acknowledges, he was disciplined for his conduct and intends to apologize to women he offended,’” Kurtz continued.

“Downie declined to answer questions about his statement,” Kurtz added.

NPR fired Williams Thursday after he made comments on Fox News that were interpreted as being Islamophobic.

“Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality,” Williams told Fox host Bill O’Reilly. “I mean, look Bill, I’m not a bigot, you know the kind of books I’ve written on the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a 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. But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it’s not a war against Islam.”

In terminating his contracted, NPR said Williams remarks were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

With Diana Sweet.

 
 
 
 
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