In wake of Williams firing, Republicans want NPR funding examined

Three potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates chimed in Thursday on the firing of NPR news analyst Juan Williams, with two of them calling on Congress to scrutinize NPR's federal funding. 

Williams was ousted Wednesday night for comments he made on Fox News about Muslims. But former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) all called NPR's move an act of censorship and political correctness.

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"While I have often enjoyed appearing on NPR programs and have been treated fairly and objectively, I will no longer accept interview requests from NPR as long as they are going to practice a form of censorship, and since NPR is funded with public funds, it IS a form of censorship," Huckabee said in a statement. "It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR."

House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who could be House speaker next year, said that "it's reasonable" to examine federal subsidies for NPR, which he called a "left-wing radio network."

“We need to face facts – our government is broke," Boehner told the conservative National Review. "Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network – and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is."

Conservatives saw the Williams firing as a chance to drive a wedge issue by criticizing media outlets, such as NPR, which they say are too sympathetic to left-wing points of view. 

The long-time commentator told Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, "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."

NPR explained Williams's firing in a statement saying his comments were "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."

NPR operates using both private and public money, though most of their revenue comes from non-public sources. 

Gingrich, who was the top House lawmaker from 1994-1998, said that Congress should investigate NPR and consider cutting its funding.

"The U.S. Congress should investigate NPR and consider cutting off its money," he said on Fox News, calling the incident "a total act of censorship."

Palin put her response on her widely read Twitter account, saying "NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left's hypocrisy,they screwed up firing you."

-- This post was updated at 4:22 p.m.