Fox News Contributor Juan Williams was the guest speaker at this year’s Executive Forum, held Tuesday night in the President’s Dining Room.
Williams has spanned the field of journalism, working as a columnist for The Washington Post, a senior national correspondent for National Public Radio and now a Fox News Contributor.
President Bill Underwood said he chose Williams as the speaker because he is “one of the more thoughtful political commentators we see and hear from today.”
“I think he is representative of the best tradition of journalism, and that is that he really tries to be a thoughtful, independent commentator,” he said.
Williams alternated between serious political discussion and personal anecdotes during his speech. He began by giving his predictions for the upcoming elections.
Republicans will take control of the House and the Senate, Williams said, because it would be too difficult for the Democrats to regain control of the House, and the Republicans only need to pick up four seats to hold the majority in the Senate.
“My prediction is that the Republicans are going to have control of Capitol Hill after the 2012 midterm,” Williams said.
Williams also believes that President Obama will be reelected, largely because of a tradition of presidents who won against opposition parties serving more than one term.
It helps, Williams said, that Obama has no challenge from his party for the nomination and, “he has the ability to again and again point to the sins of the past for creating many of the difficulties he’s faced during his first term.”
A divided government like this, Williams believes, leads to likelihood of more political polarization and inaction that has been “demonizing the American political process for the past few years.” Williams said if changes are made by both the president and Congress, this can be avoided.
Williams also spoke lengthily about the evolving social structure of America. Women, he said, are becoming increasingly important in the political process and will in fact determine the outcome of the upcoming elections.
He shared a story about a high school he visited in Minneapolis where he asked to meet with the brightest students, the student leaders and student athletes who had potential to get athletic scholarships to colleges.
Women made up at least 50 percent of all of these groups, he said.
Political ads are often targeted towards women, Williams pointed out. “[Politicians] want her to be convinced that the opponent is a bum and he or she is their savior,” he said.
Williams opened the floor for questions after his talk, and the audience turned the conversation back to the current political field.
One audience member asked how we can overcome the intense divide that has been present lately in American politics. Williams called for politicians to overlook party lines and do what is best for the country. “It’s not just about Republican or Democrat…it really is about holding the center and determining how we as Americans move down the road,” he said.
Williams was also asked about Media Matters’ views on Fox News, a subject with personal meaning to him since he stated that Media Matters “got him fired” from National Public Radio after he made comments on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor that some viewers interpreted as discriminatory towards Muslims.
NPR requested that Fox News stop identifying himself as an NPR correspondent after the incident because he espoused different views on the different networks.
Williams’ political ambiguity was something that attracted Underwood to him, however. “He’s someone that people have a difficult time categorizing…is he liberal, is he conservative? You don’t really know,” he said.
Williams said Tuesday that he felt Media Matters was a leftist media outlet trying to punish people who are on the right. His comments were not meant to be discriminatory, he said, but he was attempting to have an honest conversation about a real attitude towards Muslims that is present in American society.