Getting Caught Up Telling Stories

Williams may be a journalist. But he’s a journalist who tells stories about his his own personal experiences on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” He’s a celebrity TV star journalist who just signed a new contract in December that is reportedly worth up to $10 million dollars a year. He’s a journalist who has hosted “Saturday Night Live,” appeared on “30 Rock” and “slow jammed” the news on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Where did he tell his lies anyway? It was on Letterman’s show show and in other similar public venues. I confess that I have trouble feeling outrage that a pop star lies about his personal experiences on the Letterman show.

I’m still not sure where I fall on this. Just because Brian Williams the newscaster has gained notoriety as someone who tells entertaining stories and has good comedic timing, doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be held accountable for his fibs.

Per his Wikipedia page:

In 2009, Williams was awarded the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism by Arizona State University.At the announcement of the award, Cronkite said he was one of Williams’s “ardent admirers” and described him as a “fastidious newsman” who brought credit to the television news reporting profession.

That’s really the big thing here. He lost credibility with the people that matter most to his profession - his audience. But again, he didn’t embellish these accounts on his news show as a newscaster, rather he seemed to get caught up on other entertainment shows as an entertainer. Perhaps the real question should be whether or not he sees his two different personas as separate or not.[1]

Does his embellishment meet the level of Hillary Clinton lying about ducking sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia? The Washington Times writes:

But not at all so for Hillary Rodham Clinton. In March 2008, giving a foreign policy speech on Iraq about her days as first lady and a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia, she delivered an unbelievable tale.

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

So, picture that: Chopper lands, sniper bullets pinging and zinging everywhere, she and her comrades sprinting across the tarmac, perhaps zigzagging to throw off the sharpshooter.

But it didn’t happen. None of it. Right after the speech, she was asked about the sniper fire. “There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened,” she lied.

A week later, she changed her whole story, telling the Philadelphia Daily News editorial board that she “misspoke.” Yes, she said that word. When she said snipers had fired at her, when really a little girl had given her a poem, that was her just “misspeaking.”

The next day, she told reporters: “So I made a mistake. That happens. It shows I’m human, which for some people is a revelation.”

So who is worse?

There are other award winning journalists who are confounded by the harsh criticism of Williams when viewed against what Clinton did and the real world importance of her past offices held.

Emmy Award-winning journalist Sharyl Attkisson, who covered the story of Hillary Clinton’s lie about being shot at in Bosnia, says she can’t understand how the former secretary of state weathered the scandal while NBC News anchor Brian Williams may not.

“To me, part of the irony is if Brian Williams isn’t able to survive it — that we think it’s important enough when somebody gives this kind of story that he would lose his career — yet we didn’t care enough to have it matter that much with someone who became our secretary of state,”

Either way, I pity the guy and feel that some sort of reprimand is appropriate…so how much punishment is enough? Personally I think I could trust him again - as Brain Williams the newscaster. I’ll bet that if he’s given second chance, he’ll never cross that line again.

Getting Caught Up In Telling Stories : NPR