Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Brian Williams saga

Okay. This is going to be interesting. Let’s see how NBC plays this.

Their lead anchor, the “face” of NBC News has been caught in an unbelievable lie. It’s the kind of whopper that potentially destroys all of his credibility. On the other hand, Brian Williams’ newscast is number one among the networks. In how many day parts can NBC claim they’re number one?  Can they afford to lose him?

But backing up. I’ve never been to a war zone, but I would imagine that if I were in a helicopter that was shot down I would remember the details. Unless of course, I made it up. And then the details might shift. Ooops. I was really in the other helicopter. No, wait. I was at the Ritz-Carlton.

Someone on Facebook wondered if he was also in the Bronco with O.J. I don’t know who said that but wanted to acknowledge that someone other than myself came up with it. No, wait. Maybe that was my line. Yeah, I said it last night when I guested on Letterman. (No one will be able to fact-check to see if I really was on Letterman.)

If I were fudging somewhat on the details of being in a helicopter that was shot down (like whether the incident even occurred) I might not want to go on national television to tell my story. Yes, NBC is ratings-challenged, but there have to be some people out there who were present and could blow the whistle. Seriously, what the hell was he thinking?

At the moment he and the network are in mega damage control mode. There’s more tap dancing than a Busby Berkeley musical. PR people, lawyers, spin doctors, probably even Oprah are huddling in hopes of defusing this bomb.

But is it too late? It was for Dan Rather at CBS when he reported a bogus story about President Bush’s military service. And it’s not like Dan was part of the story. Can Brian Williams withstand this huge blow to his credibility?

To me this poses two questions: Will NBC value ratings over credibility? And is credibility even that important anymore? It should be.  It used to be. It used to be the bedrock of a news organization. Of course now, all news organizations are mis-calling elections, reporting people dead who are still alive, and airing scoops that prove to be false. They all have to make so many apologies that the retraction segments should be sponsored. (I bet this is the only time Aaron Sorkin is sorry he’s no longer doing THE NEWSROOM.)

Finally, I must say I take no joy in this story. I like Brian Williams. He has a sense of humor. He seems like a good guy. But I grew up in an era where our news anchors were pillars of integrity and trust. I can’t imagine Walter Cronkite saying, “Oh wait. I wasn’t in a helicopter that got shot down, I was guesting on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW that week.”

It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out. What do you guys think?


UPDATE:  Brian Williams announced he is "stepping away" from NBC News for a few days.  Probably to get a jump on Valentine Day's shopping. 


MikeK.Pa. said...

I suggest Brian spend a couple weeks with the Lost Boys. I'm sure Allison could hook him up.

If the body floating by his New Orleans hotel room post-Katrina turns out to be bogus, he's cooked.

Seems like since Comcast took controls of NBC they can't do anything right.

Anonymous said...

Perfect storm: slow news days, vicious social media, a profession that loves to devour its own (especially those at the top), and an anchor/frustrated funnyman who's given his critics a lot of material. I thought BW would have been a great replacement for Letterman, and I know the idea was at least bandied about. Bet he wishes he'd pursued that now. It would have been a better fir in the long run.

The Sanity Inspector said...

I might could forgive this, if not for the stolen valor aspect. He should go.

benson said...

I think I'd take a deep breath and wait a few days. But I just don't see how he keeps his job. How do you believe anything he says?

All the jokes and jabs on social media mean nothing to me, because that demographic doesn't watch his broadcast, but to anyone my age, there will be, at the very least, a question mark in the back of our minds. Credibility.

Unknown said...

The Brian Williams Show....8 pm week nights MSNBC

opimus said...

I'd like to see The NBC Nightly News with Anson Williams.

mmryan314 said...

FOX news lies all the time and seems to increase their ratings with every blunder. Guess there`s a difference between real news and faux news?

The Mutt said...

Brian Williams must go. Make him the new anchor of SNL Weekend Update.

Johnny Walker said...

He's clearly very charismatic. I watched his apology and I really want to believe him.

(For non-US readers, like me): The truth is that he was an hour behind three choppers, one of which was hit. His chopper later landed with the other three, and the whole group spent two or three days waiting there.

Here's how he's described the incident in the past:

2003: "On the ground, we learn the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky."

2005: "the helicopter in front of us was hit. A pickup truck stopped on the road, pulled a tarp back; a guy got up, fired an RPG, rocket-propelled grenade. These were farmers, or so they seemed. And it beautifully pierced the tail rotor of the Chinook in front of us."

2007: "Not long after Wayne's warning, some men on the ground fired an RPG through the tail rotor of the chopper flying in front of ours. There was small arms fire. A chopper pilot took a bullet through the earlobe. All four choppers dropped their heavy loads and landed quickly and hard on the desert floor."

2008: "The Chinook helicopter flying in front of ours (from the 101st Airborne) took an RPG to the rear rotor, as all four of our low-flying Chinooks took fire. We were forced down and stayed down — for the better (or worse) part of 3 days and 2 nights."

2013: "two of our four helicopters were hit by ground-fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47."

2015: "The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG."

"Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the US Army 3rd Infantry."

Presumably he would have single-handedly taken down Saddam by 2025 if nobody had stopped him.

It's a fascinating story. How much was deliberate lie. How much was "the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years" conflating the two. And how much was just embellishing a story with a few little details... slowing gathering more and more, in each telling.

Most of us don't have to tell the same story hundreds of times. If we did, would our memories become clouded, too. Or was he just channeling the spirit of Ted Baxter. Hmmm!

DBA said...

Yeah, I'd read the progression of the versions of the story too, and to me, it makes it seem less blatant. I mean if he were just a glory hog, why wouldn't he have told it that way from the start? But since it seemed to get more and more smashed together every few times it was told, it seems like it went from a clear memory that it wasn't the one he was in, to just the part about being with the people from the other helicopters, including the one that was hit, and sort of making it all seem like one continuous experience. I can't tell if he lied or it got blurred as time passed, but it seems an especially pointless lie to be intentional, given he'd already told it right earlier. I'm not trying to give the guy a pass but he just doesn't strike me as stupid enough for this. It makes it fairly perplexing.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Johnny: thanks for the explanation (because I was baffled) and the timeline, which I think shows clearly the way people's accounts of incidents in their lives change over time. Psychological research shows (see for example Elizabeth Loftus's work) that false memories can be easily implanted, and we all tend to increase the drama in our stories over time.

I would note that Hillary Clinton survived a similar incident.

I don't think I'd have any trouble with his continuing as a news anchor: other people write the news he presents, and as long as he's not in the stories he's fronting, we should be OK. :)


estiv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
estiv said...

A MASH link: there's an episode (not sure who wrote it, I can't find it easily online) where a would-be heroic reporter annoys everyone in the unit, looks for battle and glory, and eventually blunders into a situation where he takes a small piece of shrapnel in the ass. At the end Hawkeye removes it while chewing the reporter out. If only life were that neat and tidy.

Chalmers said...

The NBC Nightly News with Allison Williams, Ken? Now you're just talking out of your...I mean her...ah forget it.

Alex S. said...

While I am ok with it being he just lied, our memories are actually incredibly malleable and prone to shifting over time.

So I also wouldn't be surprised if he really believed it when he was telling it.

Hamid said...

Oprah wouldn't be much help defusing the situation. She too was caught out in a lie when it emerged her story accusing a store assistant of racism was made up.

Igor said...

Years ago Geraldo Rivera misreported his location in a war zone, and when he was caught, didn't he apologize? And he's still as highly respected a journalist as before, right?

If that was good enough for Geraldo, it should be good enough for Brian Williams.

BTW, whatever happened to the group at NBC that reported about a self-exploding GM pickup truck on Dateline, and to make that visual for the audience, used actual explosives to make its GM truck explode - but, so as to not spoil the moment, never told the audience? IIRC, that segment was called "Waiting to Explode".

Mike Barer said...

I believe it is very sad, but Brian must go. He needs to go right away because this damages the entire network. NBC has a great stable of anchors who can step in,just like Brian did for Tom Brokaw.

Ron Rettig said...

The late Bill McAndrews, Prez of NBC News in the 1950s-60's, and his successor Reuven Frank, would have suspended Williams immediately and then fired him. How can NBC not let Williams go their prime news competitor CBS dumped Dan Rather for similar problems which were arguably not even his fault.

Pizzagod said...

I accept the mea culpa.

Don't know why he did it, but he apologized and that's something in my book.

ON the other hand, there is this comedian who used to be REAL popular, sold a lot of Jello and hasn't owned up to anything. His alleged crimes are a lot more damaging and disheartening than anything Brian Williams has done.

I kind of see this like lying on a resume.

Chuck Warn said...

BrianWilliams begins immediately working without a net as to his veracity. The gotcha process will catch him in some kind of smoking gun situation sooner than later so he better be strategerizing his next career move for 2015. NBC brings back Brokaw for 2016. #ThingsHaveChanged #LikeARollingStone

Ron Rettig said...

BTW anyone notice HuffPost heading calling this a "Fumble", ha.

Ellen said...

It's utterly illogical that he would lie. He's a brilliant guy. He would understand that he would get caught and it would be disastrous. Therefore, I do think all those viewings and re-viewings played tricks on his memory. It DOES happen. Memory is much more fluid than people realize, especially if there are filmed images involved. It's very easy for our wires to get crossed and to forget which memories are our own and which were viewed.

Chester said...

Allison Williams is on a scripted show “Girls”. The week she has her “big scene”, she puts her PR machine to work to ensure everyone knows that she wasn’t actually naked while her butt cheeks were being motorboated. So we are told she was wearing specially designed, flesh-coloured and scented undergarments for her big scene.

Way to sell the reality of the story your telling there, Allison. Is this really the role of the actor? To create a “reality” and then go out of your way to explain to everyone that it wasn’t real at all. That you were only acting?

Duh. Like we didn’t already know that?

A few weeks later, father Brian Williams reveals that the news story he presented as “reality” was in fact made up. Maybe he was also wearing designed, flesh-coloured and scented undergarments while his helicopter was being shot down. Who knows?

But it’s bizarre and ironic that both father and daughter feel it is necessary to mask their fictional and factual realities.

Maybe it’s a genetic thing.

MikeFab said...

This whole situation is disheartening, to say the least. You kind of expect news organizations to skew current events one way or another. This, however, seems to be a total, intentional fabrication. And each successive retelling by Williams has become more fantastical. Clouded memory? I seriously doubt it, unless he can't remember what he embellished the last time he repeated this whopper. With archived video of this purported incident readily available to Williams as a sort of fact checking tool, (i.e. covering his lies), I'm reminded of one of the tenets of certain radical groups. If you lie to the masses about a situation repeatedly, they'll eventually believe the lie. Apparently, the liar can also get trapped in this web.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

(homage to Saturday Night Live's Jon Lovitz here...)

"The NBC Nightly News with Tommy Flanagan and Morgan Fairchild..."


Dan Ball said...

I generally distrust network news anyway. For no more than they can cram into a half-hour, you're never getting all the necessary details from any given story. News producers must frame which of those details are most important to include, excluding all others, and go from there. So what if a story's presented incorrectly or inaccurately?

I mean, a lot of these stories should take lifetimes to research in order to get even a decent grasp on what's going on in a situation...but at most, you get 3-4 minutes from the news.

Let Brian Williams stay. It's not like he's going to worsen the framing problem or NBC's already-ruined image. "The Slap" is a much more damning curse to ratings than Brian Williams' foggyish memory.

Andrew L. said...

I don't buy the idea that this was an honest memory lapse. Even when he reported this back in 2003, it was inaccurate. His wording, "The Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out the sky," implied that he was flying in the same group as the helicopter that was down, when in fact he was flying with a completely different group that was nowhere near them.

This wasn't a true account that over the years got exaggerated into something false. It was false from the start and just got more false.

DwWashburn said...

Bill Maher stated that since Williams has been shown to be newscaster and a liar, he has been offered a contract with Fox News.

Kathleen said...

To me the biggest issue with Williams was his need to insert himself into the story, which is symptomatic of what's wrong with all so called "news", be it on cable or the major networks. In order to boost ratings, the anchors have to establish their personal "brands". Williams appears on late night programs and even comedy shows (30 Rock), where he yuks it up. As long as networks' focus is profit and ratings, it doesn't matter who is in the chair as long as he/she contributes to the bottom line. I don't trust 99% of what I hear on "news", so I don't watch it anymore. To me it doesn't matter what happens to Williams at NBC; problems are much bigger than what really happened on the helicopter.

Eric J said...

"News" networks get so much of their source material from Facebook and Twitter, it's no wonder they're confused about reality.

I'm surprised they don't go there for the solution--in 140 words or less besides.

Patrick said...

Ann Curry for the win!!

Jeff C in DC said...

Ken, can I respectfully say your intro to this topic is a great demo of the congealing of details into something misleading. Dan Rather's reporting about President Bush's history didn't build documented proof before release, but I understood that what he was saying was correct according to documentation done after the story blew by. Rather apparently just skipped over professional steps, which clearly made his departure justified.

Many people remember that skirmish as you described, "Rather...reported a bogus story about President Bush's military record", and the impression that remains is that his military record is just fine. Excellent example of how congealing details become truthiness (and a fine example of this political system).

But wow, if Brian Williams as actually recounting his own personal experiences, then I'm all out of places to parse.

Glenn said...

In one short week, a whole bunch of former SNL Weekend Update anchors are gathering in New York City. Let NBC line them up so America can call/text in their votes for who should be the new Nightly News Anchor. Stranger things have happened.

Anonymous said...

Yes, what he said was inaccurate. Period. I am so done, with this dude. DONE. DONE. DONE. It's like a dude who sees all this cool films and then post it on writer place. I AM DONE. DONE.

mickey said...

This makes me recall an Intro to Journalism class in which the instructor patiently explained to a student (an advertising major who needed to fill a requirement) that when you have factual holes in a story, you can't just make stuff up that sounds good. No doubt she's gone on to a fabulous career making stuff up on the advertising side, but when you stay on the journalism side, you are never allowed to pass off fiction as fact. It's even more appalling because the only purpose of Williams' version of event is to shine greater glory on the star TV anchorman.

Anonymous said...

The era of the evening news anchor as a trusted and admired voice evaporated when Walter Cronkite retired and rightfully so. Over at CBS, Scott Pelley fancies himself the present day equivalent of Cronkite but the only thing he has in common with Walter is the globe graphic in the news room, something he personally requested. David Muir? Please... he's one degree of separation from the Entertainment Tonight news desk.

This is not simple resume padding on Williams' part. It's a deliberate campaign on his part to bask in false glory. Williams' lie will not cause me to doubt the credibility of NBC News because I don't particularly trust them (or CBS or ABC or Fox) to begin with.

NBC has an opportunity to make a game changing shift here and her name is Rachel Maddow. The real question is whether they have the guts to take that chance and if she can channel her news instincts into a more mainstream presentation. It would certainly shake up the Evening News race. But the evening news as a must-see show is just a fading memory.

Mister Charlie said...

I fully agree with DBA and Ellen, the man had no reason to lie, he has been in many true situations of life or death around him. Memory farts, likely. The man doesn't need self- aggrandizement, everyone knows him and loves his sense of humor yet kept his gravitas for the news.

Sorry, I just don't think it is worh this job, especisally since no one can prove it was a lie vs. 'fog of war memory'.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was in a war but not in a combat unit. Still, I came under fire a number of times and I remember all of them 47 years later.

As someone else mentioned, this is akin to Hitlery claiming she was shot at as she deplaned in Africa. Another liar.

James said...

Sybil the Soothsayer says Brian Williams keeps his job, and that relatively few people believe any of the major news outlets are credible anyway.

News is being reorganized and now reports to the Entertainment division. If the ratings tank and his Q score goes with it, he can become an angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our times.

halcyon said...

Well, it seems very fishy. I adore BW so this is sad and disappointing. However, the fact that there were people there who could contradict him actually gives credence to his story about misremembering. Why would he lie when he could be easily called out? He seems too smart for that. So maybe somehow his story about it being a mistake is true. Unfortunately, he's the only one who can ever really know.

I don't understand people who say it doesn't matter and we should get over it. Are we that cynical that we should expect / accept lying from people in positions of trust? He gets paid millions to be trustworthy. Not okay

CarolMR said...

Now some of the things Williams said during his Katrina coverage are being questioned. He couldn't possibly have seen a dead body floating in the French Quarter, apparently he is the only one in New Orleans who got dysentery, etc.

Anonymous said...

DW Washbum Said:

"Bill Maher stated that since Williams has been shown to be newscaster and a liar, he has been offered a contract with Fox News."

Coincidentally, since Bill Mahr has been said to have extensive experience with high priced African American hookers, he's been offered a consultant contract by Bill Cosby.

Igor said...

@Chester, "flesh-coloured and scented undergarments while his helicopter was being shot down" - cracked me up.

Dixon said...

Ah, yes, good old Cronkite. So trusted and respected that some countries call their newscasters "Cronkiters."

Oh, wait, they don't? Never mind.

Angry Gamer said...

Well you didn't have to wait long..

I find this lefty "like Brian but..." equivalence her very interesting.

In entertainment yes ratings trumps all BUT he lied about news worthy events.

Here's the deal if he lied about this could he have lied about events surrounding Katrina? Gulf Oil Spill? Sandy Hook? Hurricane Sandy?

We really don't know do we? How can we not put a question mark after everything he says?

There is a saying in flyover country. The fruit never falls too far from the tree. Brian's daughter recently exhibited questionable judgement on a motorboating issue. I wonder where her ethical compass came from?

I know this is hard to take because lefty groupthink is so ingrained in entertainment. But you pretty much have been lied to since 9/11. I don't know why but about then the facts that pinned down the "driving the narrative" news have been sparser and sparser.

You first saw this exposed big time with Rathergate (deja vu all over again).

Just imagine that there are a whole slew of topics you think you have been completely informed on are just not so.

Topics like:
Saudi support of 9/11 terrorists
Israeli-Palestinian Conflicts
Gulf War II
Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq
Afghanistan (gee not heard much about that surge now have we)
Al Qaeda
Arab Spring
Gulf Oil Spill
Keystone Pipeline
Global Warming (oh sorry Climate Change... hows that snow working for you this year?)

it really goes on and on...

I know it's hard to fathom but it just might be that Fox is reporting things a little more correctly than the other 3. You have been duped by thinking 3 organizations saying nearly the same thing makes it true.

Angry and Amused

MikeK.Pa. said...

With NEWSROOM ended, Jeff Daniels is at the ready to step in.

ODJennings said...

We need to adopt the British term "news reader" and ditch the whole toxic personality cult that has blurred the line between news and entertainment.

Hire the person doing the 6AM farm commodity and weather report on the Des Moines affiliate, park them behind a grey Steelcase desk and let them read AP wire service copy for half an hour.

Instead of graphics maybe a world map tacked to the wall and a yardstick the newsreader can use to point with, and it goes without saying that our newsreader will be styled by Supercuts and never appear in anything except Men's Wearhouse suits.

I think it would amaze you how much quality information could be conveyed in 30 minutes under my system,

Rob in Toronto said...

Anonymous' comment about Bill Maher shows he is second only to George Constanza in his ability to come up with a witty retort.

How exactly do you compare hookers ( who willingly participate in sexual activity for money ) with innocent women who have been drugged and raped while unconscious ? And since you bring race into it, it should be pointed out that the faces of Cosby's public accusers are overwhelmingly white, not African American.

I sincerely hope you are never called up for jury duty, since your ability to look at facts and come up with any sort of intelligent analysis is non-existent.

Bruce H. said...

I have watched Faux News quite a few times and always felt like I needed a shower afterwords. In my book, they're kind of the TMZ of the political world. "Let's shock and distort to suit the prejudices of our viewers and advertisers."

My suspicions were enforced by Angry Gamer's comments. One misstatement on NBC and he questions everything from the network. Constant misstatements for Faux News make them reliable. This is their viewer base. Sad.

Phantom Dreamer said...

I get the same vibe about Muir and ABC News, they have way too much pop culture fluff and ABC's top meteorologist is indeed a former Entertainment Tonight host.

Phantom Dreamer said...

When did Dan Rather report a "bogus" story about Bush? Rather's been vindicated.

Anonymous said...

Rob in Toronto said...

"Anonymous' comment about Bill Maher shows he is second only to George Constanza in his ability to come up with a witty retort.

How exactly do you compare hookers ( who willingly participate in sexual activity for money ) with innocent women who have been drugged and raped while unconscious ? And since you bring race into it, it should be pointed out that the faces of Cosby's public accusers are overwhelmingly white, not African American."

I think you might rival George Costanza in the "Clueless Outrage" category of clueless douchebaggery, since the seeking out Bill as a consultant premise would indicate that the Cos would like to learn how to marginalize women in a more acceptable manner.

Sorry if you're upset that race was brought into it.

Actually, I'm lying, Rob.

Go suck on something that would embarrass you if we found out what it was.


Anonymous said...

Bruce H. said...
I have watched Faux News quite a few times and always felt like I needed a shower afterwords."

You should avoid watching any episode of Rachel Maddow's sorry spew. If you have any sense of decency, you'll likely set yourself on fire to try to clean out the unleashed existential bark beetles gnawing on your soul.

Anonymous said...

Re: Williams choice to "take a hiatus."
His advisors have told him that the news cycles move so quickly, in a short time his story will be on the back burner within two weeks. During that time, Bill Cosby could take his own life, thus minimizing Williams' place in the news cycle further.
It's cynical and mean, but that's why his advisor's are paid the big bucks.
Just sit back and pray Putin's meds fail him and he nukes the Ukraine.

bill said...

Am I the only one who sees a remake of Preston Sturges Hail the Conquering Hero starring Brian Williams

JoeyH said...

BW is D-O-N-E.

He has been reduced to a punch line. Pre-social media days, he might have survived. But not now.

H Johnson said...

Because you asked Ken,

I think he should be fired. As a couple responders already noted, 12 years is a rather short time to 'mis-remember' a very important event in one's live. Jeez, my pick-up is a 2002 and I still consider it newish.

I don't know Brian Williams. Seems like an okay guy. A little too 'celebrity' for my taste in journalists though. He's a very fortunate, well paid employee who did the one thing you can't do in his position. He lied.

He didn't make a mistake, he didn't embellish the facts, he straight up lied. And it was a whopper.

A lot of people in the public eye start to believe their own press over time. They start to behave in ways that are unacceptable to most folks, and think that a well composed 'apology' gets them a do over. As Brian Williams would probably tell you himself, his job is slightly more important than Britney Spears' or Justin Bieber's, so how 'bout we hold him to a slightly higher standard?

I'm not on television, but I'm pretty sure that if I told a bald face lie at my work, I'd be let go.


Mike Botula said...

If he had ethics, and a conscience, he would have resigned already.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Write this down, Brian: I recently had knee surgery, I was taking a lot of pain meds, I sometimes get confused. I have entered rehab, and with the help of God and Dr. Oz/Dr. Phil/Oprah, blah blah blah...

mmryan314 said...

You are either an entertainer or a journalist. Fact or fiction. He has to make the choice. He IS very entertaining though. I wish he would have made that choice a bit sooner.

Cap'n Bob said...

Yikes! I just heard that Katie Couric is being mentioned as a replacement. DON'T GO, BRIAN! Oh wait, I don't watch him anyway. I don't care.

Mike said...

"Cars were king. If you had transportation out of town to high ground you might eat, you might get some water. So here we are driving through town in our rental cars. Eight troopers had to cover us by aiming at the men in the street just to tell them, 'Don't think of doing a smash-and-grab and killing this guy for the car.' I carried a case of Vienna sausage, cans of Vienna sausage, as collateral in case we had a smash-and-grab cracking. I was gonna offer it to someone in exchange for my life."
— Brian Williams, on covering Katrina in New Orleans.
(Courtesy of Doonsbury)

"The chopper was going down fast. Just then my daughter flew in through the window. I jumped on her back and rode her through the night all the way to Never Never Land."

BobinVT said...

As only a few commenters have pointed out, he lied about being right behind the chopper that was hit AT THE TIME IT HAPPENED. So this is not misremembering, it started as a lie and got embellished over time. Having said that, I read that NBC just extended him for several more years at $10 million per. That bodes well for his survival. It's not about integrity or credibility any more, ratings and money rule.

Anonymous said...

London Lee says:

"A lot of people in the public eye start to believe their own press over time. They start to behave in ways that are unacceptable to most folks, and think that a well composed 'apology' gets them a do over."

As soon as a city reporter starts appearing on TV, they become a local celebrity. If they become an anchor, they become a higher-grade, higher paid celebrity, opening supermarkets and appearing at charity events. "The Little People" coo when they see them. They appear in staged commercials, dashing around with microphones as if they really do that anymore, which some may do. More often they dash to the hair stylist.

I cannot imagine how much an ego spins when a newsperson hits the network level. They must become separated even further from the "Little People." Just look at the crowds, hoping to actually talk to Al Roker, or get a glimpse of Matt Lauer. How can a human being stay grounded when they're surrounded by syncophants, making huge amounts of money, getting ratings and "running" the news division?

Network anchors are akin to TV and movie stars, very highly paid and generally found mingling with their own "kind". They are no longer individuals, but corporations with employees and influential investments in entertainment, politics and other business.

So why wouldn't BW eventually think what he said was true? Why wouldn't he get his daughter on a TV show? Why wouldn't NBC pass over so many other singer/actresses, either unknowns worthy of a break, or well known talents who could be as good or better as Peter Pan?

BTW Ken, I restrained myself when you posted the very funny "I can't find the lost earring" line with the photo, but now that we've gone from "how could BW's daughter do that?" to "Of course BW's daughter did that!" here we go:

"I can see Russia!"

"You're right, they did shove the Peter Pan DVD in here."

"I hear the ocean roar!"

"The last guy in here left the light on."

"You lied about being a vegan."

"I think I fixed it. Try to send something to the printer."

"I thought you said monkeys were going to fly out."

"Should I close it, or leave it open a crack?"

"I'm going to guess 362 jelly beans. Do I win?"

"Hey, it's the Property Brothers with a potential buyer!"

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Said...

"Network anchors are akin to TV and movie stars, very highly paid and generally found mingling with their own "kind". They are no longer individuals, but corporations with employees and influential investments in entertainment, politics and other business.

So why wouldn't BW eventually think what he said was true? Why wouldn't he get his daughter on a TV show? Why wouldn't NBC pass over so many other singer/actresses, either unknowns worthy of a break, or well known talents who could be as good or better as Peter Pan?"

Dan Rather was interviewed on the Howard Stern show somewhat recently. He said that when someone gets in his position, the ego becomes impossible to govern, and he entered a kind of dream world.
He also said if he had his life to do over, he'd have retired years before he did, but the psychological payoff for his job was like a narcotic, making that decision impossible. He said Walter Cronkite, after retiring had major withdrawal symptoms that plagued him the rest of his life.
What more frightening is to know that these people, who are suffering from pathological delusions, have a big say in our national news cycle. Whether it's Brian Williams, Ms. Huffington, or even Jon Stewart, and Bill O'Reilly, we have some qualified crazy people as prime movers for our national debate, and legions of cult followers reinforcing the madness.

Anonymous said...

Geraldo was NEVER a respected journalist.

Anonymous said...

Tinfoil hats must be cold to wear in winter.

Igor said...

I said Geraldo was as highly respected after he was caught lying about his location in a war zone, and then apologized, as he had been before. I never asserted Geraldo was ever a respected journalist.

Roger R. said...

Allison Williams replace Brian Williams?
Why not - They both pretended to fly.

Mark said...

Rather's story on Bush was indeed bogus because for evidence, he used documentation that could not be authenticated. That is terrible journalism and does indeed make the story "bogus".

Gotta laugh at those who dislike Bush enough that the end justifies the means for them as far as the Rather story goes. Just blatant hypocrisy.

MikeN said...

Brian Williams has been front and center in a new ad campaign about NBC News is going to tell you the news you need to know, reporting from the front lines.

MikeN said...

Dan Rather is lying to his viewers when he claims that his story was good. They used made up documents at the time, and he and Mary Mapes are still refusing to acknowledge this.
Various claims about how it could have been made on a typewriter are made, but the guy who invented typefaces showed that it could not have happened. It was done on a computer, and the liberals at the network saw the chance to get Bush and ran with the story. If it had been against a Democratic politician they would have held back.

Just like they will likely hold back against Hillary who made the same fake claims about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia.

Oliver said...

No-one was fired after 60 Minutes' outright fraudulent Benghazi story and this seems far less significant to my eyes.

He just exaggerated an anecdote, which most people do, and is non-partisan. It doesn't seem like a major lapse in journalistic integrity that it's made out to be.

Then again, America has a weird relationship with its news anchors, plus the right tends to be far more rabid and organised with this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

The pilot of the helicopter Williams was on, said Friday, that they did in fact take fire. The pilot said William's story was pretty accurate, that they had to make a quick landing, but weren't technically "shot down".
They were definitely in harm's way.

McAlvie said...

The thing is, it's the kind of thing that does happen to people, the reliving of an incident in your head until what you 'remember' is part experience, part someone else's recounting, and part fabrication. So I can actually see that this might not have been an intentional fabrication on his part. However, he's supposed to be a professional reporting on actual events, someone who's job is to know what really happened, and so it looks a whole lot worse when it happens to him. I'm not making excuses, it's clearly an epic fail on his part, but what about the folks behind the scenes who let him get away with this?

I've been watching the downfall of broadcast news for several years, as it gets glitzier and more sensational, and that's the fault of the boys behind the camera. So Williams got caught out, and he'll take the fall. But while we mock his lack of integrity, he's just the face of what has been an ongoing decline. And the folks behind the camera don't care as long as the money comes in and nobody gets caught.

Anonymous said...

Video of original event, then Brian's "improvements" to the story over the years.

Only thing I'd add is, during his following Letterman appearance, I'd say, "what do you mean WE, motherfucker?"

Williams was a passenger, and told the story as if he were one of the troops.

If it's any consolation, Peter Pan would have retold the story the same way.

Jon B. said...

Based on what we know now, no, I don't think Brian Williams should be terminated. And, despite what others have said, I do not believe that past NBC executives would have fired him, either.

I fear, however, that things will get much worse for him soon. Now that he is a target, there is and will continue to be a massive effort to fact check everything he has ever said and done. Can he withstand that scrutiny? If he knows there are many more of these damaging fibs out there, I suspect he will resign.

MikeN said...

Bob Woodruff was coanchor at ABC when he suffered an injury from an IED explosion. Brian Williams has no shame to keep telling his story after that.
The man is making up stories left and right, just like Stephen Glass.

MikeN said...

>is non-partisan.

In an interview with Michelle Obama, Williams asked whether a New York Times reporter was correct in saying that her husband is "a proud yet humbled president, a confident yet scarred president, a dreamer mugged by reality." Williams asked Mrs. Obama, "Does that resemble the man you know?"

Williams' interview with Ann Romney during the GOP convention. He scolded her for telling NBC's Natalie Morales, "I believe in my heart that Mitt is going to save America."

Williams later said, "that jumped off the screen to me. Someone who knows you conceded that if Mrs. Obama used words like that --'Barack was going to save America' -- here'd be all kinds of hubbub."

Interviewing Michelle:
He asked, "What of the attacks has busted through to you? What makes you angriest at John McCain, the Republicans? What's being said about your husband that you, you want to shout from the mountain tops is not true?"

Anonymous said...

JonB Said:

Jon B. said...

"Based on what we know now, no, I don't think Brian Williams should be terminated. And, despite what others have said, I do not believe that past NBC executives would have fired him, either."

He can't do his job anymore when his past actions affect his future. Think about when Dan Rather stormed off a set when a sports show went long into his broadcast. That's the move of an entertainer, not a journalist. Once that happens, you're over, since. from that moment on, you can become a part of the story you're covering at any time in the future. Here's Bush making Rather's problems a part of the story:

So how can Brian Williams interview someone to find out if that person is a liar? The subject can throw Brian's lies right back at him, turning the interview into a silly mess. Just like Rather's interview went with Bush.

Think about him interviewing foreign leaders now. Do we really want the Brian Williams shitshow to represent us to the rest of the world, if we have a choice? We should at least attempt to look like we aren't a bunch of idiots to the rest of the world, when we can, shouldn't we?

The fact that Williams put HIMSELF in the corner, and gave HIMSELF a few days off, means his ego is still in full swing, and he's not answering to anybody above him.

Why would anyone want this strange man calling the shots for our national news cycle? Let him do a pundit show like Racheal Maddow, and he can say whatever he wants. Nobody in their right mind takes pundit shows seriously. It's pure entertainment, and that's what Brian Williams is now. He's not a journalist. Let him breath new life into "A Current Affair."

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Credibility? Seriously? What's that? All mainstream media is a joke. There are no more journalists, just models that know how to put more than six words together in a coherent sentence. Just re-watch the movie "Network" and pile on the 40 years of evolution since, and that's what you have now. There is no more real news and I'll bet nothing happens to this idiot because the day after tomorrow the wind will change direction and they'll all be talking about THAT. End of story, just that fast.

Oliver said...


I meant the issue is non-partisan, notably unlike the Bush military record and 60 Minutes Benghazi controversies.

Kaleberg said...

I was surprised to find out that the networks are still doing "news" shows and that some people still seem to pay any attention to them as news sources. It's been maybe 20 years since it has been worth tuning in to a television news show in pursuit of information about the nation and the world.

When I was a kid I remember reading Soviet Life, which was full of puff pieces that might almost convince one that living in the USSR wasn't all that different than living in Southern California, except with more snow. I also read stuff by actual journalists, political analysts and historians, so I knew better. I don't know what happened to the guys who cranked out Soviet Life, but by the early 90s I'm guessing they were running the US news shows.

Given the sketchiness of our public discourse these days, I'm surprised that anyone is concerned about this guy William's credibility. Maybe when the right to broadcast on the public airways was seen as something that needed to be earned by public service and a level of integrity, an outfit like NBC might care about the veracity of its reporting, but those days are long gone.