Fox News contributor Juan Williams blasted a PBS host, claiming the journalist invited and then disinvited him to a discussion about race on a news program because of his Panamanian heritage.
During an acceptance speech at the CultureX Awards, Williams stated that the he was initially invited to speak at PBS's "This Is America & the World" on issues of racial injustice and unrest following the death of George Floyd. The show is a weekly international affairs television series produced in Washington, D.C., New York and other places around the world.
"Recently, Fox got a request for me to do an interview for a PBS show. The host of that show wanted to talk about the last year of protests for racial justice that began with the death of George Floyd, who, as you'll recall, died after a policeman kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes," Williams, who is also a contributor to The Hill, said.
"But before I responded to the invitation, it was withdrawn. The host explained that his research showed, and here I'm going to quote him, Juan’s background is 100 percent Panamanian, end quote. The white host said he is a fan of my work on television, but my background didn't fit with a program about black protest."
Williams continued, calling the incident "insulting."
"Yeah, I was born in Panama. It's also true that I have lived in the USA since age 4," Williams said. "And it's also true that my dad is a Black man. He was born in Jamaica. My mom is a woman born in Panama to a father from India and a mother of African descent who was born in the Caribbean."
The journalist and author went on to cite his extensive work spanning more than 30 years covering race issues in America for major media outlets such as The Washington Post and his biography of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
"When that PBS host decided that I was the wrong voice to discuss civil rights, he rejected someone who knows a lot about the subject," Williams said.
In a statement to The Hill, PBS said neither it nor its partners produce and program, which does not run nationally.
"PBS member stations are all locally owned and operated organizations that make independent scheduling decisions," the broadcaster said. " PBS member stations acquire content from a wide variety of sources, and they always have local control over what to broadcast and when. So while this show might run on a small number of member stations, it is not offered by our national feed and is not produced by PBS."
Only 23 percent of member stations carry the show, PBS added.
A longtime journalist and political analyst, Williams worked in public broadcasting with NPR for 10 years. He was fired in 2010 after making controversial comments about Muslims during an appearance on Fox News.
Williams pointed to the alleged snub by PBS as an example of "the kind of racial, cultural and gender blindness that still limits opportunities for too many in American media."
"Some seem to think their ratings are safest in the hands of blonde women and white men," Williams said.
"Instead of seeing an increasingly diverse America that's hungry for real debate from authentic voices from all walks of life, you know, real people with viewpoints and information to offer and to share, somehow they see only risk in staging a realistic symphony of American voices, a symphony that would carry across lines of race, culture and gender," he added.
--Updated on March 17 at 11:53 a.m.