As it happens, I have long had a big, fat, main stream media crush on NBC anchor Brian Williams.
I’ve been watching NBC news since the days of Huntley and Brinkley. I didn’t crush on either of them.
I didn’t crush on John Chancellor, either. Or Tom Brokaw.
But Brian Williams.
He’s been my Main Stream Media dreamboat.
Oh, for all I know, in real life he’s a 14 karat gold jerk. But, for the 30 minutes I spend with him most evenings, he has come across as pleasant, intelligent, authoritative, and – on occasion – faintly bemused. Being handsome enough in a Pierce Brosnan manqué kind of way and having a nice voice don’t hurt, either. Plus he’s a parochial school-er. So if he were older, and I were younger, he could have been sitting at the next desk over.
Anyway, all this has, over the years, added up to a case of be still, my little old lady heart.
And then I have to find out that he’s a bit of a trimmer, a fabricator, maybe even a – gasp! – liar.
Brian, Brian, Brian: say it isn’t so.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years.
Williams repeated the claim Friday during NBC’s coverage of a public tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game for a retired soldier that had provided ground security for the grounded helicopters, a game to which Williams accompanied him. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he said he had misremembered the events and was sorry. (Source: Stars and Stripes.)
If there’s a more mealy-mouthed weasel word than “misremembered”, I don’t know what it is.
And yet I do believe that it is possible to misremember something.
The parents of one of my high school classmates owned a very nice – but, alas, no longer in business – motel/inn on the Cape. After graduation, they invited a bunch of us down to spend a week there, and we had as much fun as any gaggle of girls could have. (The most daring thing we did: everyone took a puff on a cigarette. And yes, that was a cigarette cigarette we’re talking about here.)
Anyway, one day, we took the boat to Nantucket, entertaining the other tourists by performing our high school glee club repertoire. (It was a kinder, gentler time.) On Nantucket, we split up. Some girls went shopping, and a handful of us rented bikes and pedaled around the island, somehow ending up at the airport.
On our way back to town, we somehow concocted a plan to tell other friends that, at the airport, we’d seen Paul Newman.
They, of course, fell for it, and I’m sure that some of the “girls” can still recall how crestfallen they were that, because they chose shopping over biking, they missed the opportunity to see Paul Newman.
Paul Newman was the perfect celebrity to choose.
If we’d said that we’d seen one of the Beatles, they never would have believed us.
But Paul Newman was just plausible enough. Famous and handsome but, let’s face it, old enough to be the father of any of the girls in our class.
Many years after the fact, I found myself with a very vivid image of Paul Newman at the airport in Nantucket. I laughingly told one of my friends that, somehow, across the years, my mind had convinced itself that I’d actually seen him.
But, in truth, I know the truth.
And I’m thinking that Brian Williams should have, too. (Although the “I saw Paul Newman” part of me can kinda-sorta understand how it happened. But not really.)
Here’s what the man I would still like to think of as my Main Stream Media dreamboat had to say for himself (on Facebook), once some of the guys who were there called him out and he admitted that they were right and he was wrong :
"…I spent much of the weekend thinking I'd gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in '08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp. Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize."
On Wednesday night’s NBC News, he apologized yet again.
I guess when it comes to being able to distinguish truth from fiction, the fog of war is more powerful than the non-fog of biking around Nantucket on a gorgeous June day.
Gee, but I’d like to give my MSM beau another chance.
After all, if I can close my eyes and picture Paul Newman on the Nantucket tarmac, maybe Brian Williams can close his eyes and picture the ‘copter he was on taking fire, and not the one in front of him.
There are, of course, a number of possibilities about what actually happened, other than that Brian Williams is a liar, liar, bespoke suit pants on fire.
One is that Williams was so traumatized by his experience on the ground in a war zone that he actually does have some form of PTSD.
There’s always the terrible possibility that he has early stage Alzheimer. Didn’t St. Ronald of Reagan once claim to have liberated a concentration camp? (Which I don’t believe he did even in a movie.)
And then there’s the possibility that the soldiers that just now started jumping down his throat are part of the brigade that gets all up in their shorts if some schnook goes to a costume party dressed like a Marine, and start screaming “stolen valor.” After all, Brian Williams is a pretty boy who never served, and he’s probably a snotty liberal.
And, once the truth-seekers get in the act, well, everybody just starts heaping on – hey, this could be this week’s DeflateGate! Tom Brady’s a liar! Brian Williams is a liar! Through the alchemy of social media and 24/7 news, we can make a something out of nothing, let alone when there is something that we can inflate into a BIG, EARTH-SHATTERING SOMETHING.
Which, when last I looked, is starting to look like what actually happened, now that the pilot of the helicopter that Williams was on has come forward to say that the chopper did take fire. But it was small arms fire, not an RPG. (Source: Talking Points Memo.)
Let’s face it, when it comes to memory, twelve years later the storm was bigger, the car was going faster, the blood was gushing stronger, the fish that got away was the size of a whale. So maybe your mind can do a bit of conflating and convince you that maybe it was an RPG and not small arms fire, after all.
No wonder Brian Williams thinks he might be going crazy.
Not that this is a good thing, mind you (or out of your mind you). Someone who’s in the media business should probably hold himself to a higher standard of recall than, say, those of us who may or may not have spotted Paul Newman at the airport. And if Brian Williams can convince himself of something that didn’t really happen quite the way he thinks it might have, what else might he be “misremembering”?
I’m going to have to keep that crush on hold while we see how this brouhaha plays out.