I have been quite intrigued by this story of Brian Williams from NBC Nightly news. While everyone will agree that we absorb our news much differently now than we did 20 years ago, its no longer Walter Cronkite or Peter Jennings, but the person who reads us our nightly national news has always been the cornerstone of integrity. For that reason, this story is just bizarre.
Brian Williams is a well put together, articulate cornerstone of the news for decades. He is also quite funny. What other news anchor has ever hosted Saturday Night Live? He also hits the late night talk show circuit. That is why it is mind blowing that he has now been suspended for six months by NBC due to fabricating a story regarding an helicopter attack in Iraq in 2003. Williams claimed he was in the middle of an attack, and that his Chinook helicopter was shot multiple times. In reality, his helicopter arrived after the fight was over. When he said this in 2003, nobody thought too much of it. However, he repeated the story on the David Letterman show in 2013, and then made reference to it early this month on the Nightly News. The reference this month caused some people involved in that mission to come forward to state the story that Williams was putting out was inaccurate. After that took place, the floodgates were opened. It seemed that everything Williams has said his whole life has been questioned. Whether if it was being robbed while selling Christmas trees, or seeing dead bodies in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, everything is now under scrutiny.
Williams did take the accusations head on and apologized to the viewers on the Nightly News on February 4.
It was only a couple of days later, that he decided to step away from the news desk, and Lester Holt would take over those duties. Then just last night, it was announced that NBC has decided to suspend Williams for six months without pay for the “misremembering”.
The question now is whether or not this is the end of his career? Let’s face it, our country is quite forgiving. Whether it is Michael Vick with his dogfighting, or even former President Bill Clinton has his infidelities in the White House, if you show true remorse, our society has a tendency to grant forgiveness. In this case however, I don’t see that happening. People, rightfully so, take their news very seriously. If you have someone delivering that news to you, and you are not sure what is coming out of their mouth is the actual truth, it is not only going to turn people off, but cause them to turn the channel. This puts NBC into an interesting dilemma. Brian Williams is the most well known working newscaster in the country, and a real asset to attract viewers and important advertising dollars. When this six month suspension is over, will that asset have lost all of its value? To say the least, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.