Odds 'n' Ends
NBC Nightly News with...a Liar?
by Steve Wood
February 6, 2015




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I was surprised this evening to see Brian Williams still in the anchor chair for the NBC Nightly News. I'd expected to at least see another personality sitting in for Williams as NBC investigates Williams' false claims about being in a helicopter shot down by an RPG rocket.

The charismatic anchor of the Nightly News soberly moved from news story to story, never referencing the major online story about his oft repeated lies about his experiences in Iraq and while covering Hurricane Katrina. As the broadcast progressed, I wondered if Williams might conclude the half hour with an honest accounting of his actions and the events, something more than his still somewhat misleading apology that aired Wednesday evening. Instead, Williams concluded the news with a feel-good story about shelter dogs finding homes through unusual venues such as hotel lobbies and various businesses and a brief, weak smile.

NBC News president Deborah Turness appears to be trying to buy time for their top rated anchorman by beginning an internal investigation while allowing Williams to remain on air with the network stonewalling all questions. Her widely leaked memo to NBC news staff on Friday seems to be an attempt to placate other news sources and let the dust settle a bit over a weekend, hoping no one will care come Monday.

Apologists for Williams have already sprung up in big names such as former CBS news anchor Dan Rather and Time Magazine's Joe Klein. Klein wrote in Accept Brian Williams’s Apology, "I understand Brian Williams’ predicament. Our memories are not very reliable, especially in life-and-death situations." He aggressively added that he found "judgments about whether Williams should be fired, from pundits who never saw the inside of a chinook helicopter, self-righteous and gagging." But he never really approached the issue that Williams knowingly and repeatedly lied.

William Arruda writes in Why Brian Williams Must Resign on Forbes:

Brian Williams violated our trust in exactly what we expect from him – honest, ethical reporting of the news. At this point, his dishonesty is not only having a negative impact on his brand but also the credibility of NBC News. It’s time for him to step down, before he further damages the noble brand of war reporters worldwide.

It's sad to see an immensely talented and entertaining news figure in such a situation of his own making. Williams could have been classed in time with such news giants as Cronkite, Murrow, Huntley, Brinkley, and Brokaw. But as Arruda and others have commented, he broke trust with his viewers.

He needs to resign.

Where I'm Coming From

I was a big fan and faithful viewer of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams...right up until Tuesday, September 28, 2010. On that night in the course of reporting on NBC's Education Nation, Brian Williams and education correspondent Rehema Ellis presented a video story on the Nightly News that clearly showed the network's intent and bias with its Education Nation event. The video clip showed a sincere young teacher from the Teacher Town Hall event who called for an end to tenure and felt that "the union contract is getting in the way" of teaching her children without any balancing views. It was a broadside against teachers and teachers' unions in a time when business interests were fomenting a takeover of America's public schools by for-profit charter schools. Understandably, neither Williams nor Ellis commented on how opposing views had been filtered out of the Teacher Town Hall discussions.

After that time, I simply would not watch Brian Williams doing the news, as I'd found him to be subject to bias and slanting the news. So while I was disappointed with the current news of Williams' "misremembering" or lies, I wasn't surprised.

While I've sprinkled this column with links to news sources, here are a few more (the first my own):

And if you're still hoping this will all blow away, read Roxanne Jones' Brian Williams broke public trust on CNN.

Update (2/11/2015):

In a brief statement released Tuesday (2/10/2015) night, NBC announced that "NBC News is suspending Nightly News managing editor and anchor Brian Williams for six months, without pay, in the wake of an internal review of comments about his experiences in the early days of the Iraq war." As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted on her show, "But tonight, even as we are reporting on this breaking news about the news division of which we are a part, no, NBC News will not make anyone available to discuss this story with us on the air."

Obviously, NBC is laying low, as is Williams, on this story. Whether the tarnished news anchor will return to the air is uncertain, but the suspension allows NBC and Williams time to let the dust settle over the scandal. Williams has as yet to give a satisfying explanation of his actions, characterizing his lies as "misremembering."

For now, previous weekend news anchor, Lester Holt, will fill in for Williams on the Nightly News. He also is mentioned in the press as a more than adequate permanent replacement for Williams.

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©2015 Steven L. Wood