1502 Final Thoughts: Brian Williams
Note to readers: This will be the last time this space offers a main story about former journalist Brian Williams. You’ve heard this only once before when I promised that a particular column would be the last main story about child abuser Jerry Sandusky. That was about three years ago. I’ve stuck to that and I’ll stick to this. -- WR 6/22/15)
It’s 6 PM and Mrs. Peterson comes home from a long day at the office. Once inside, she hears strange noises coming from upstairs. She follows the sound and opens the bedroom door to find Mr. Peterson and an 18- year- old girl naked on the bed.
“Honey, it’s not what you think,” says Mr. Peterson.
And that’s about the substance of defrocked news anchor Brian Williams’ interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show last Friday.
Williams was suspended and demoted for lying about his role in some stories he covered. He kept his job, or at least *A* job at NBC. But he’s been demoted. No more anchoring the Nightly News. Instead he’ll become a part of the company’s MSNBC cable, the largest unwatched channel owned by a major broadcaster since CNN Money shut down.
He thus morphs into the highest paid typist and telephone message taker in the history of television. If that.
Standard operating procedure at the real networks -- and for all its faults, NBC remains a real network -- is the Jimmy Hoffa Solution, making a hard to fire employee simply evaporate.
Step one: assign him a job. Step two: give him an office or cubicle and stationery. Step three: let him sit there and rot until his contract runs out. NBC has done that to Ann Curry and to Scott Simon. CBS did it to Dan Rather.
In Williams’ case it could be as expensive as was Milton Berle, awarded a $30 million contract just a couple of sweeps before his show bombed and was cancelled. NBC kept paying him.
Williams’ contract is five years and $50 million. Likely they’ll feed his checking account until time’s up, although water cooler scuttlebutt says he took a handsome pay cut.
As for the televised interview, you’ve never heard so much psychobabble in one spot since Wayne Dyer and Dr. Phil had a seance with Sigmund Freud.
And you never heard such evasiveness in one room since Richard Nixon dined alone.
Here are some Williams quotes:
When he started his suspension, “...I was reading these newspaper stories (about me) not liking the person I was reading about.” (A common reaction to those stories.)
But was he lying? “...I was not trying to mislead people.” (Then what WERE you doing?)
Lauer again asked the question, but worded it a little differently. The answer: “...I told stories over the years that weren't true. I never intended to.”
Not once did Williams say “I lied.”
Maybe he should be named euphemism editor.
And as for Mrs. Peterson... she didn’t believe a word her husband said, either. After a thorough investigation and months-long suspension, she elected to remain married to him, but demoted him to the living room couch, confiscated his house keys and installed a time lock on the bedroom door. The teenage girl, now 25, writes an advice column for Larry Flynt’s magazines.
Disclaimer: The poster was a writer for The Today Show and NBC Nightly News for eight years and worked with Williams occasionally and with Lauer regularly. I do not know Lester Holt. But I’m a fan and have been since long before the Williams Hullabaloo developed.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015