When last we left our hero, he was hanging by the thumbs in NBC’s sin bin. Today he learns his fate. Another in a series of essays in which the writer bravely champions the cause of a much pilloried serial liar.
The Rise & Decline of Brian the Mediocre, Part XI
The Second Coming of Brian Williams
I think NBC expected me to faint on the spot last week when the in-house inquiry, with all the solemnity of an international transplanetary court of justice, without revealing what they had discovered in four months of study, finally ruled on the fate of the late Brian Williams. The suspense angle, so to speak.
You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a scientologist, to know Brian Williams wouldn’t be back as the anchor of “The NBC Nightly News without Brian Williams.” There’s nothing the media enjoy more than indulging in the old American sport of kicking a celebrity or a venerable institution on its way down. Tabloids, cable network news, and that other most trusted source of information, social media, would delight in regurgitating the charges that made NBC the laughing stock of journalism.
Still I was astonished at the punishment the powers that be came up with by way of fulfilling its basic mission, restoring trust in NBC News.
Having made the mistake of handing him the plum of anchoring one of the three most influential sources of information in the western world, prematurely putting out to pasture the legendary Tom Brokaw in 2003, the brainiacs in the corridors of power on the 51st floor are making the same mistake in how to bury their mistake. It’s a strategy right out of Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat.”
A fitting end to the case that has entranced followers of the world of journalistic prevarication for months might be a ceremony on TV.
The scene: the ice skating rink at 30 Rock. The scenario:
After a parade of peacocks with tail feathers unfurled, and the singing of the NBC anthem, to the tune of the NBC chimes, accompanied by a massed chorus of NBC flacks blowing their flugelhorns, NBC News staff employees would march in, followed by members of investigative commission who for four months have been studying reports of exaggerations by the star anchorman in war and peace. With a drum roll, Williams would do the perp walk. The charges would be read by Don Pardo, or his successor as announcer-in-chief. Andy Lack, the new chairman of NBC News, would then rip off the anchor’s epaulettes, slap the accused across the face with the gloves used to clean up the mess Lack originally made by having picked Williams out of a hat, thus causing the news division’s credibility problems. The accused is then frog-marched off to obscurity in New Jersey, never to darken the network’s screen again. All to the cheers of the usual crowd outside “The Today Show.”
Instead, the man who had been first in the hearts of some 11 million news junkies who still watched a network evening news whose sell-by date had passed, was made to open his comeback tour by delivering an apology.
An apology? Oy, vey! Not another apology! For Brian, that was the lantern Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocked over, starting the Chicago Fire. It was Brian’s attempt at an apology in February that burned down his house and career.
The start of Brian rehabilitating his good name began with the Matt Lauer interview on “The Today Show” on Friday.
He did not say anything immortal, like “I have but one life to give to my network.” Brian is no Nathan Hale.
Once again, Brian used an apology to not apologize. He blamed all of his troubles on everything but the air of New Jersey and his kindergarten teacher. His ego made him do it. He seems to be constitutionally unable to use that four-letter word on TV.
Drummed off the network news, for the second phase of the comeback victory tour Brian will be serving the remainder of his sentence at MSNBC, starting in August.
Will Brian be wearing one of his Bond Street-tailored suits with the scarlet letter “L”?
And what will Brian be doing at the kind of halfway house Chairman Lack is turning MSNBC into? Will MSNBC be giving the defrocked network star his own show, replacing, who, Chris Mathews, Rachel or Lawrence? Certainly not the Reverend Al. That would be racism, and cause a demonstration or two in front of 30 Rock. “Lockdown” on weekends could use a big name familiar with crime.
No, according to NBC press releases, Brian will be covering news and special events. Like what-- the war against ISIS?
The news? Holy Ed Murrow!
As I recall, his problems at NBC occurred in the news field.
If he has a tendency to exaggerate, it might be a psychological problem, caused by an inflated ego or id. How do we know that urge won’t come over him again, like a Wolfman-thing when the moon is in a certain phase?
We have already established in this series that Brian is a clunky writer. His judgment as a managing editor is suspect, having sent himself to the front. He is not the best interviewer in the world,
What exactly does Brian have as a newsman reponsible for his rise in the journalism game? His major strength was making people think he was trustworthy, an asset that is now somewhat besmirched.
Whither goest Brian?
In the next episode of the saga, I will be exploring Brian’s future in the medium he loves.
The Marvin Kitman Show
June 22, 2015