NBC announced this week that Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, would serve a six month suspension for recently discovered fabrications and embellishments within his news reporting. The initial discovery and recent suspension has created a full spectrum of responses from the media and general public. Many of these responses expose hypocrisy and flaws within the responders that are more problematic than Williams struggle with the facts. Let me state up front, I don’t think I have ever watched Brian Williams as the nightly news anchor outside of clips at a later time. To be more direct, I was never a fan of Brian Williams from his days as a field reporter and time on MSNBC. He always seemed to be trying too hard to appear as a comic strip news anchor. It often seemed more of an acting performance, than a real personality. Beyond that, on camera he often seemed arrogant and belittling to both colleagues and anyone that was not a card holding member of the elite left. All of those negative perceptions begin and end with the fact that I am not a viewer of NBC news; therefore I have no preference on the decision by NBC or the career trajectory of Brian Williams. I feel very alone in my lack or preference.
Much of the hypocrisy was found in a familiar source, the news media itself. Recent days have included many individuals in the news media pleading a “second chance” case for Williams. Often these same individuals were leading their reporting just days earlier with reports of “shock and anger” related to Williams actions. It is likely the story would have lost steam if not for these same individuals reporting nightly about the “distrust from the public“, and almost challenging NBC to take action. The hypocrisy from the news media did not pinnacle with the attempt to build Williams up hours after tearing him down. The common theme of reminding the public that a few mistakes should not define the entire body of Williams’s career stands in direct contrast to the standard operating procedure of the news media. How many times have you heard a line similar to the following news tease?
“Live at 5, Channel 4 News investigates the local school board’s new contract with a community member that has a criminal background”
It is not disclosed in that tease, and muted in the actual report that the local community member, Hector, had non-violent criminal charges 25 years ago, or the contract is for water and plumbing utility maintenance. They also do not tell you that Hector is in his 50’s, built a successful local business, employs 19 members of the community, raised 3 college educated children, or donates annually to the local Boys & Girls Club. Why do they leave this all out? Because they are attempting to define Hector’s whole life with a mistake 25 years ago, and hoping you will leap to somehow think your kids are less safe today because Hector’s employees will ensure the equipment at the school plant is operating properly! The media’s sudden forgiving heart was created when they witnessed how quickly Williams was diminished, and they all began to consider words from their past.
Williams, a young employee within the Carter Administration and college dropout, routinely attempted to define conservatives by their lowest moment. There are many examples, but the most obvious was his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in which he often portrayed it as some type of window into President Bush’s soul. Any mispronunciation from Bush, a Yale & Harvard graduate, was utilized by Williams to insinuate intellectual inferiority. Williams is basically hoping Americans do not treat him as he has routinely treated those who held different ideologies than himself.
On the flip side, many individuals in the general public that hold a similar view of Williams that I held joined “internet mobs” demanding employment termination. Upon the announcement of the long suspension, they responded with celebration. I am puzzled why individuals that are not stakeholders of the network or loyal viewers felt the need to express a preferred action. It is not as if NBC is going to replace Williams with Sean Hannity. The seat will be filled with another liberal media member, and little will change in the left tilt of NBC News. In effect, exactly nothing will change in the life of individuals that do not watch NBC Nightly News. Frankly, I was embarrassed by the manner many conservatives reacted which is very common within liberal ideology. Championing Williams’s professional demise is no less stupid than people who avoid Wal-Mart because of liberal propaganda or sacrifice their desire for a Chick fil A Chicken Sandwich because the founder does not support gay marriage. I would suggest anyone who felt good about the negative impact to Williams should perform a deep self-analysis to discover what really is at the root of those feelings.
I am not attempting to excuse Williams’s actions. I would say that I hope he recovers from these events by returning to NBC, but that would mostly be disingenuous. Although I wish Williams the same amount of happiness and success as I would any other decent American, I have no preference which path he or NBC seeks. I would hope that we can all agree that it is not fair to define Williams, the entire man, by his news embellishments. I also hope we attempt to take a close look at how we often define everyday citizens by their worst moments in life. It is all too common for us to pretend people do not evolve, and fall into a trap of believing an individual that committed a crime or bad act decades ago is more likely to commit one tomorrow. At some point, Americans began to inflict lifetime sentences on individuals long after they reconciled their actions within the legal justice system. Second chances are earned, and maybe Williams will earn a second chance, but “Hector” represents many that definitely have earned a second chance.