Heh. Between this and his hint-hinting on “Fox & Friends” this morning that maybe it’s time for NPR to leave the government-funded nest, he’s number one with a bullet on this week’s list of “Conservatives’ Favorite Liberals.” (Sorry, KP!)

As for his point that NPR was looking for a reason to get rid of him, they’ve already all but admitted it. The ombudsman claimed this morning that it was his alleged pattern of saying outrageously outrageous things on Fox that made this the final straw, although from what I can tell, the “pattern” consists of this incident plus maybe two others that no one who doesn’t read Media Matters obsessively would ever remember. Said the ombudsman, “Many [people who e-mailed us] have been troubled over the years by the dual role that Williams has played: balanced news analyst on NPR; more opinionated pundit on Fox.” And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Not the “opinionated pundit” part, which would be A-OK if he was on MSNBC playing pattycake with Olbermann about how racist the right is, but the fact that he’s on Fox conversing pleasantly with Bill O’Reilly. Lefty Michael Tomasky gives it to us straight:

[W]hat sort of non-conservative – one perceives Williams to be some degree of liberal; he’d probably protest that he’s just a reporter; in either case, he’s not a conservative – agreed to be an in-house flunky at Fox? I’m sure they offered him nice money, and money is money, and I can’t say with certainty that I’d have turned it down if Rupert had waved it under my nose.

But if you’re any kind of liberal at all, even in the softest and most non-political possible sense, it’s basically an indefensible thing to do. Fox News wants liberalism to perish from the face of the earth. Going on their air on a regular basis and lending your name and reputation to their ideological razzle-dazzle is like agreeing to be the regular kulak guest columnist at Pravda in 1929. For “balance”…

[I]n the final analysis, it’s not surprising, from a psychological point of view, that after all these years of going on their air and drinking their green-room coffee, Williams should choose to ingratiate himself with O’Reilly and his viewers with that Foxy rhetoric. In a sense, Williams got what was coming to him. Sleep with dogs, get fleas.

They needed a pretext to purge the resident “Fox News liberal” and they got one. Simple as that. Or rather, almost as simple as that: There’s also the small matter of their hysterical overreaction to Williams admitting to a twinge of anxiety about flying with devout Muslims in the post-9/11 era. For a response to that, read this clear-eyed op-ed at the Journal by Muslim Emilio Karim Dabul noting that, in certain circumstances, he gets a little nervous around Muslims at the airport too.