Juan Williams falsely claims Media Matters took his Michelle Obama "Stokely Carmichael" comments out of context

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

This morning on Fox Business Network, Juan Williams discussed the circumstances of his recent firing from NPR and revisited comments he made in early 2009 saying Michelle Obama has "this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going." Williams claimed that what he really said was Michelle Obama "has to avoid being what I said was 'Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress,'" but Media Matters took his comments "out of context" to falsely claim he had accused her of being "Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress."

This is absolutely false. Williams, appearing on the January 26, 2009, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, said affirmatively and in his own voice of Michelle Obama: "If you think about liabilities for President Obama that are close to him -- Joe Biden's up there -- but Michelle Obama's right there. Michelle Obama, you know she's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine [Ham] suggested, her instinct is to start with this 'blame America,' you know, 'I'm the victim.' If that stuff starts to come out people will go bananas."

Here's the video of the exchange that Media Matters posted in the original item:

And here's the transcript with all relevant context, which Media Matters also posted in the original item [emphasis added]:

BILL O'REILLY: All right, Juan, Michelle Obama. I don't know much about Mrs. Obama, but she now has the power of the first lady's pulpit, which is considerable. How do you think she's going to use this power, Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I mean, what they say is that she's going to make an effort with military families, she's going to try to do more with kids, especially her own kids. They make the point she's not going to be involved with policy as an adviser to her husband, but actually going to try to keep control of the family with her mother, President Obama's mother-in-law, who's living at the White House. And then, finally, don't forget, she's got to be a role model. We've never had a black woman in this position before, and she's a mom, she's a wife, and she's going to be a role model to millions of people, not just African-Americans.

O'REILLY: OK, but, usually, Mary Katharine, usually, first ladies take on a cause. Laura Bush was illiteracy, and I'm not sure what Mrs. Obama's cause is going to be, do you know?

MARY KATHERINE HAM: Well, she's talked about taking on the juggling of family and work, which probably entails some sort of family leave discussions, national discussions on that. She has a policy director who's fairly to the left on those issues, although she is going to start with military families, which I think is the best political move --

O'REILLY: That's good.

HAM: -- when you're talking about supporting families. But, you know, she's got to walk a fine line. Everybody's saying, you know, she's not a talking -- you know, she's not just a nice first lady who's just going to be quiet. On the other hand, she's got to not drop sound bites like she did during the campaign --

O'REILLY: Right.

HAM: -- that were not helpful to her husband, because, frankly, if you want to be an unpleasant --

O'REILLY: All right. Well, I'd like to note --

HAM: -- heavy-handed first lady, you're going to --

O'REILLY: Yeah. Sure, anything that she says will be used against her.

HAM: -- well, you'll end up like Hillary Clinton. So -- yeah.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. Anything she says.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. And let me just -- let me just tell you this: If you think about liabilities for President Obama that are close to him -- Joe Biden's up there -- but Michelle Obama's right there. Michelle Obama, you know --

O'REILLY: But it's not her fault in the sense that --

WILLIAMS: -- she's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine suggested, her instinct is to start with this "blame America," you know, "I'm the victim." If that stuff starts to come out --

O'REILLY: Yeah, it'll be death.

WILLIAMS: -- people will go bananas --

O'REILLY: Right.

WILLIAMS: -- and she'll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross.

O'REILLY: She's not going to do that. She's not going to do that.

WILLIAMS: I hope not.

O'REILLY: Finally, I'm going to give you both 20 seconds --

HAM: She's been smarter about it lately.

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