SHOP TALK: JUAN WILLIAMS

Sam Smith

I know how Juan Williams feels. Some 24 years ago, after being asked to write a story for a hyper cautious liberal publication, I also was dumped . . . and replaced by Juan Williams.

The topic was Marion Barry and the request had come from Charlie Peters, editor of the Washington Monthly. I told him that I would be glad to write the piece but that I wasn’t going to trash Barry. And I suggested a headline, “Failing the Faith.” We set up a lunch to discuss it.

I had known and worked with Marion Barry from his start in DC, but by this time, he had told a local radio reporter, “Sam’s a cynical cat.” In 1986 I told Philadelphia Inquirer that Barry had “basically done to ethnicity what Ronald Reagan has done to patriotism. He’s turned it into a personal preserve.”

But I still saw that it was a complex story and was going to tell it that way. A few days later, Peters canceled the lunch at which we were to discuss the article and never got back to me. The next thing I knew, the Washington Monthly ran an article by Juan Williams fully trashing Marion Barry and using a slightly familiar headline – “A Dream Deferred: A Black Mayor Betrays the Faith.” Williams was on his way to the big time.

For me it was one more lesson in why one shouldn’t trust hyper cautious liberals.

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