Embattled Politico reporter Joe Williams refused to apologize for his controversial remarks about likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney and instead blamed “big media” for its “selective prosecution.”
Williams, Politico’s White House reporter, was suspended from the news outlet after he said that Romney is only comfortable around “white folks” while appearing on MSNBC.
“If I apologize for that there are going to be many other people who have to as well because this is not a new sentiment,” Williams, who is black, told radio host Bill Press this morning. “There have been many other people who said the same thing, and it’s not a headline grabber by any means.”
Williams said that outlets such as the Free Beacon, which was the first to report his comments, twisted his words.
“It only became incendiary when the big media decided it was something they needed to dig into, and in doing that they selectively, it was selective prosecution, if you will, and selected evidence from a file they managed to dig into and put a lot of stuff out there that was arranged to make me appear biased,” Williams said, referring to a series of tweets in which he maligned his employer.
The suspended reporter also maintained that his comments were not objectively offensive.
“It was a situation where I was attempting to describe something and the words weren’t coming fast enough, and the ones that I chose were in some people’s minds incendiary,” Williams explained. “Generally people understood what I meant, but to a small corner of Washington and to a small corner of people like you and I who do this for a living, it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”
Williams was even more defiant in an interview with Mediaite, telling the website that outlets such as Breitbart.com hanged him.
“I gave them the rope, but they did the hanging,” Williams said before decrying the “right-wing media” for what he deemed its unethical behavior.
Williams is not without his defenders.
Writing at NBC News’ The Grio, Nida Khan argued that Williams is only in trouble because of his race.
“The real question for Politico (and other news outlets for that matter) is: would they have been so quick to suspend Williams if he were White?” Khan asked, accusing the Washington media corps of having no “backbone.”
“If Williams’ incident proves anything, it’s that black media ownership (and ownership by other marginalized groups) is virtually absent today,” she added. “There was a time when every major city had a black newspaper, and in turn employed countless black journalists. The fact of the matter is, you’ve got to own your own in order to hire your own.”
On the Bill Press Show this morning:
BILL PRESS: Joe Williams with Martin Bashir last week on MSNBC, last Thursday—any regrets?
JOE WILLIAMS: Thinking about it, and thinking twice, I probably should have selected my words a little more carefully. It was a situation where I was attempting to describe something and the words weren’t coming fast enough, and the words that I chose were, in some people’s minds, incendiary. In large, no. I think generally people understood what I meant, but a small corner of Washington and to a small corner of people like you and I who do this for a living, it’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
PRESS: Do you think you owe Mitt Romney an apology for saying he’s only comfortable with white people?
WILLIAMS: If I apologize for that, there will be many other people who have to as well. This is not a new sentiment, there have been very many other people who have said the same thing. It’s not a headline grabber by any means. It only became incendiary when the big media decided that was something they needed to dig into and, in doing that, they—it was selective prosecution, if you will, and selected evidence from a file that they managed to dig into and put a lot of stuff out there, that was an arrangement to make me appear biased.