The liberal website Politico has suspended its White House correspondent Joe Williams, after he made comments that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is more comfortable around white people.
Fox News reports that the suspension was announced shortly after midnight Friday.
Williams was speaking during Martin Bashir's MSNBC show. He said Romney is more at ease when he appears on Fox News Channel and suggested that race is a factor. Williams said: "It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on ‘Fox & Friends.' And it’s unscripted. It’s the only time they let Mitt off the leash. But it also points out a larger problem he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall. Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes on ‘Fox & Friends,’ they’re like him.They’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company."
Williams also commented on the incident involving Daily Caller White House correspondent Neil Munro, who heckled President Obama during a speech. Williams said: "It's very, very difficult to place race outside of this context. Mostly because a lot of the interruptions, a lot of the disrespect has been unprecedented. A lot of people will suggest it's because the Republican party has moved so far to the right that they're willing to do things that were unthinkable. But certainly in my experience, it's hard to divorce that because this president doesn't look like the others."
Williams's comments were immediately picked up by conservative blogs. Politico reports that the video was first flagged by the conservative website The Washington Free Beacon. According to Politico, Breitbart.com also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that ridiculed Mitt Romney with reference to his wealth. The Huffington Post reports a comment Williams made in which he alludes to Romney being served by his butler: "Jeeves knows my tastes," Williams tweeted in response to Romney's comment that he had never eaten anything surprising. He also made jokes about the Seamus the dog incident and Ann Romney's "unzip him" remark.
Politico reports that Williams was suspended after a meeting with the founding editors Joe Harris and Jim VandeHei.
A statement by Politico's founding editors, said: "Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams's public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility. His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way. This appearance came in the context of other remarks on Twitter that, cumulatively, require us to make clear that our standards are serious, and so are the consequences for disregarding them. This is true for all POLITICO journalists, including an experienced and well-respected voice like Joe Williams. Following discussion of this matter with editors, Joe has been suspended while we review the matter."
Daily Mail reports that Williams has a long history of describing Romney and other Republicans in a controversial manner on his Twitter account. His suspension comes after sustained ridicule of Romney on his Twitter feed.
The statement released by Politico's founding editors also said: "Joe has acknowledged that his appearance reflected a poor choice of words."
Politico reports that in a memo, the founding editors reminded staff that "POLITICO journalists have a clear and inflexible responsibility to cover politics fairly and free of partisan bias."
Politico reports that Williams, in an emailed statement on Friday evening, said: "I regret that this happened. I understand and respect John Harris' point of view - that I've compromised Politico's objectivity, and my own. At this point my suspension without pay is still indefinite, and I don't know what management has in mind as an appropriate sanction, so I can't object or appeal. Politico still employs me, but the review process hasn't started in earnest so my future remains unclear. Having covered the Shirley Sherrod firing and seen the fallout from James O'Keefe's brand of journalism, I'm not surprised a small group with Internet access and an ambitious agenda can affect reporting and distort analysis of political news. It's quite unfortunate and incredibly frustrating, however, that I landed in the crosshairs this time, calling Politico's integrity into question and jeopardizing a job and a career that I love."