WASHINGTON — Conservatives and some liberals say NPR went too far in axing a longtime news analyst for saying he gets nervous on planes when he sees people in Muslim dress, and at least one U.S. senator said he would start the ball rolling in cutting federal funding to the network.

Muslim groups were outraged, saying that Juan Williams’ remarks Monday on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor” endorsed the idea that all Muslims should be viewed with suspicion. Opinions Williams expressed on shows by his other employer, Fox News, over the years had already strained his relationship with NPR to the point that the public radio network asked him to stop using its name when he appeared on O’Reilly’s show.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said Thursday about the decision that controversial opinions should not come from NPR reporters or news analysts. Still, NPR was soundly criticized for axing Williams’ contract for giving his feeling in an interview where he also said it is important to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists.

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

In response to the firing, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce legislation to end federal funding for NPR, his spokesman Wesley Denton confirmed Thursday night. Denton said the senator would expand upon his proposal in a statement on Friday.

Federal grants provide less than 2 percent – or $3.3 million – of NPR’s $166 million annual budget. It is funded primarily by its affiliates, corporate sponsors and major donors. Federal funding of public media has long been questioned by some in Congress.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said Thursday that Williams had veered from journalistic ethics several times before Monday’s comments.

Schiller said whatever feelings Williams has about Muslims should be between him and “his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick.” In a post later on NPR’s website – where comments were heavily against Williams’ firing – she apologized for making the “thoughtless” psychiatrist remark.

O’Reilly and Williams said they believed he was fired from NPR because of his association with Fox.