The Brian Williams Today Show "Comeback" Interview
Brian Williams appeared with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show this morning in his first interview since getting caught fabricating stories about past news events.
Although I thought it was a bad idea for Williams to be interviewed by one of his NBC colleagues—which throws into question the independence of the interview—Lauer asked many of the straightforward and tough questions any reporter should.
Williams came across as a chastened and wounded man—not a broken one—but too often evaded questions with half-answers that didn’t go far enough.
For example, asked how he got so many stories wrong, Williams attempted to compartmentalize where his misstatements (some would say lies) occurred:
“It is clear that after work, when I got out of the building, out of that realm, I used a double standard, I changed, I was sloppy, I said things that weren’t true.”
But it was Williams’s story on NBC Nightly News—about allegedly being shot down on a chopper during the invasion of Iraq—that got him caught. That didn’t happen “after hours” on a late night comedy show, as Williams hoped we might forget—it happened on his signature broadcast. His attempt to segregate his lies solely to extracurricular interviews is inaccurate and unfortunate.
Lauer also gave Williams an opportunity to confess to his other misstatements, as NBC News has refused to make its internal investigation public. Williams again evaded the question, only saying that, “What has happened in the past has been torn apart by me and fixed.” I doubt he would take a lying politician’s word for it at that without pushing for more—but Lauer let it go and didn’t press Williams into a more forthright response.
Did Williams do enough to be able to make a comeback in his new role on MSNBC? Time—and ratings—will tell. But as chastened as Williams was—and it was clear he’s felt the impact of this ordeal—he should be making his comeback outside of NBC News, not as one of its highest profile faces of hard news.
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“What has happened in the past has been torn apart by me and fixed.”
I think this passive-voice sentence means, “When I realized that I had been lying, repeatedly, I looked into my heart (or did a lot of soul searching), found the cause of this behavior, and changed my ways.”
What it sounds like is, “Untrue things were somehow said [by me, yes, but let’s not dwell on that part]. I have been working on this, and it won’t happen again.”
Either way, he sounds chastened. I’m sure he’s embarrassed. And someone will no doubt fact-check every single thing he says for the rest of his life.