We know Brian Williams will not lose his job for repeatedly telling a lie. We know because he works for Comcast, a company which allows no one out of contracts under any circumstance even when you call and beg them to cancel your account. Brian Williams has job security.
We also know something else now. In the age old debate between spits or swallows, the American press corps has swallowed his “misremembered” nonsense hook, line, and sinker. In fact, Brian Williams told the story of the helicopter numerous times after it happened in 2003 and, each time, he said it was the helicopter in front of him.
In 2006, Bob Woodruff, then co-anchor of ABC World News Tonight, was seriously injured in Iraq. In a coma for 39 days, Woodruff worked diligently to recover from his injuries, but never got back in the anchor chair. It was after Woodruff’s real injuries that his competitor, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, began to claim he had been in a helicopter that had been shot down in Iraq.
Perhaps it is coincidence. But perhaps it is ego and competition. Regardless, men are flawed and fallible. Brian Williams is a sinner. And his credibility with people will suffer long term, whether he remains as anchor or tries for redemption. I think the bigger story is not Brian Williams, but the reaction of the American press corps to him.
From New York to Washington, the circle of jerks that comprise the leading voices of the American press, have rallied to Williams’s “misremembering.” They have produced psychology reports and personal testimony that memories are frail, events can get conflated, and everybody does it.
That problem is with the last one.
The same Circle of Jerks fawning over Williams, in large part because they know his job is secure, would never show such fawning admiration for most politicians of either party and, in particular, Republicans. Were it a Republican who had done this or, for that matter, a Fox News anchor, the Circle of Jerks would be marching with pitchforks and torches demanding the person’s head in the name of integrity.
The American press is a brood of vipers who rarely bite their own and, when they do, tend to be immune from the poison. But if you are not in the cool kids club, not of the chosen profession, not useful, or of the wrong ideology the press will savage you.
The story is not so much about Brian Williams at this point. He has been exposed and has apologized, though perhaps without the full candor he should have. What is vastly more telling is how the rest of the press corps will excuse one of their own even as they destroy others who do the same.
A press that will not hold itself accountable cannot hold others accountable and no longer has the credibility and integrity the First Amendment was designed to protect.