Lloyd Grove weighs in on Brian Williams and his tall tales about being shot at:
The Brian Williams Apology Tour has begun—and who knows where it will end?
The NBC Nightly News anchor publicly apologized three times Wednesday—during his regular broadcast, in a Facebook post, and in Stars and Stripes—after the military-focused newspaper published a damning story that Williams and NBC have been claiming falsely “for years” that, during the 2003 Iraq invasion, he was aboard a U.S. Army helicopter that was hit and forced down by rocket-propelled grenades.
“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq,” Williams told viewers during last Friday’s broadcast of the top-rated NBC Nightly News, “when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Video accompanying the story showed a severely damaged helicopter, its skin pierced by an RPG, and strongly suggested that Williams had been a passenger on the combat-hobbled aircraft.
Williams has told the story of being hit by enemy fire at least twice on national television, most recently during Friday’s Nightly News segment about a retired Army sergeant who protected him and his NBC colleagues in the war zone. But Stars and Stripes reported that contrary to Williams’ tall tale, his Chinook helicopter was miles away when an entirely different chopper took enemy fire.
Williams holds a place of respect in American broadcasting. He is not an inherently evil or incompetent fool. He reads what is put in front of him. He is paid to be tolerably uncontroversial. This is why he probably won't be fired by NBC.
If Dan Rather had done this, good night and good luck surviving it, Dan-o. I mean, they ate Rather's lunch for a thousand times less than lying about being shot at in a time of war. Hoo-boy.
The real issue here is what we should do with the position of nightly news anchor. At one time, the men who sat at the anchor desk of the three major networks was a powerful, elite person. You cannot say that anymore. The diminished luster of these positions hangs in the air like a rude cloud of passed gas. Are there kids out there who want to be the next Walter Cronkite? Of course not. There are kids out there who couldn't name any of the anchors who sit at the desks at ABC, CBS and NBC (Fox doesn't count and cable news is populated with hundreds of anonymous readers--very few of them are known quantities or stars, except for maybe that assclown known as Don Lemon).
Williams holds a job that used to mean something, sort of like the Johnny Carson of news. Now he's part of a vanishing part of the media landscape. No one cares who he is or what he does because they don't watch the news in the middle of the early evening anymore. There has to be a revenue stream out there that provides him an environment--someone still has the habit and there are demographics that the networks can still sell ads for.
My guess is that you could fire Williams and it wouldn't matter, but you'd threaten what little money currently rolls in from what he does. It's vanishing as his audiences literally and figuratively dies off. Plenty of people have been fired for less but you couldn't be less important to the American media landscape than the anchor of the NBC Nightly News right now.
Why are we concerned with dinosaurs and fading business models? Americans are tragically uninformed, period. End of story.