Brian Williams/NBC damage runs far deeper than personal lies

February 15, 2015

The decision has been made, the punishment has been meted.  NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay for lying (Williams refers to it as “misremembering”) about being in a Chinook helicopter that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in the beginning stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Deborah Turness, President of NBC News said in a written statement:

“While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”

I am still thankful I wasn’t reading that last line at coffee time as modern science has yet to find a way to make computer monitors and spewing liquids compatible.

While I understand the desire to put on the best face possible during a very tough time, Ms. Turness’ use of the phrase “high standards” when referring to the peacock network’s dissemination of the news is an oxymoron at best.

Google “NBC Brian Williams bias” and 945,000 results are returned in less than a second.

And according to Gabriel Sherman writing for New York Magazine on Tuesday, NBC management has a list of more than a few of them: “Earlier this morning, Williams and his agent met with NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke and were presented with a dossier of Williams’s apparent lies, according to sources.” 

But worse than Williams’ lies (those can at least be countered) the deeper damage to truth and standards has been in Williams role as Managing Editor.

Last fall when the world was watching video after video of Obamacare insider Jonathan Gruber calling the American voter stupid and pontificating from his bureaucratic soapbox, Managing Editor Williams kept the story out of his nightly news cast for over a month.  (He did however find time to give his viewers a “behind the scenes” report on the live Peter Pan broadcast that his daughter Allison was starring in.)

And those watching Williams last Thursday February 5th, would have had no clue that earlier that day at the National Prayer Breakfast the President of the United States had lectured that we should not “get on our high horse” regarding ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists because 900 years ago Christians had the Crusades.

I don’t know about you, but as an American, I kind of want to know when the President puts the pure evil that is engulfing the Middle East today on a moral equivalency with the western world attempting to reclaim the Holy Lands from the Muslim conquerors of the day.

If NBC News really cared about truth and standards Williams would have been gone long ago.  He wasn’t suspended because he lied, he was suspended because he got caught.

And it should not be overlooked that this is also the same NBC, whose sister network MSNBC gives daily and weekly show time to the likes of tax evader Al Sharpton and tampon earring wearing Melissa Harris-Perry.  (Whose latest example of “journalistic integrity” is telling outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder that in “nerdland we call you the duck” and then asking “would you quack for us?”.)

But don’t feel too bad for poor Brian.  With a salary of $10 million a year, the half leftover will still keep him securely in the 1% lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed.

The story will now turn to how he deals with losing what he truly treasures, the late night T.V. appearances and anchor chair celebrity status.

I just wouldn’t wait around for NBC News to tell it.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  An edited version of this column first appeared in the February 16, 2015 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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