My Polish grandmother used to talk a lot about budinskis—people who habitually mind other people’s business instead of their own and express opinions, no matter how little they may know about a given situation.
The word may be out of fashion, but this whole Juan Williams affair has certainly proved (if proof were needed) that the world is still full of them.
In his new role as budinski-in-chief for the GOP (for want of any elected title), Newt Gingrich is calling for Congress to defund NPR! Pundits are weighing in on the situation left and right (and I do mean left and right—budinskiism is clearly not the purview of either major party). Most, like Gingrich, come down on the side of poor, beleaguered and misunderstood Mr. Williams—who, according to the boss who fired him, had been having ongoing problems with remembering his responsibility to be as apolitical as possible in accordance with his role at the nonpartisan network. (Why she didn’t fire him when he first started moonlighting at Fox is anybody’s guess.)
Companies have a right to fire people for any number of reasons—including failure to conform to an image befitting their role in the eyes of the public. Let’s take an example.
I work in public education. Would the principal of my school have the right to fire me if I started working part time as a bar tender? There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with tending bar, but my principal may—or may not—think the image is in keeping with that of a school professional.
The odds are good that I wouldn’t be fired for that—although such a choice could conceivably generate some conversation with district officials about the need for school employees to be careful about their public image.
Then suppose I became embroiled in a public incident in the bar that generated headlines. Or decided to start expressing my opinions on page 1 of the local paper about matters related to my second job. Or what if, as a representative of the hospitality industry, I started making public statements about lowering the drinking age in our state?
You see what I mean? In such a scenario, I’d be treading dangerously close—and likely sometimes crossing—the line preventing conflict of interest between my two public functions. My superiors in education would have every right to tell me to switch to bar tending as my full-time occupation.
That apparently, is what happened to Mr. Williams. After treading the line for two long, he was given the opportunity to quit his day job—netting a $2 million contract at Fox into the bargain.
Meanwhile, people are still unemployed, the polar ice caps are still melting, and we have an election going on that will profoundly affect every aspect of American life for generations.
So how much more time shall we spend commiserating about the allegedly unfair treatment of poor Juan Williams?