It’s all fun and games in the ozone layer of the elite media until the public catches you cooking the books.
“You know you’re in trouble when Tom Brokaw is out for your blood.” The New York Post’s Page Six on the man who coined the phrase “The Greatest Generation” versus his successor, who’s been living out B. G. Burkett’s Stolen Valor meme for the past decade:
NBC’s most revered journalist is furious that Brian Williams is still in the anchor chair after he sheepishly admitted he hadn’t traveled on a helicopter hit by enemy fire.
“Brokaw wants Williams’ head on a platter,” an NBC source said. “He is making a lot of noise at NBC that a lesser journalist or producer would have been immediately fired or suspended for a false report.”
On Wednesday, Williams, 55, acknowledged that he had repeatedly said he was aboard a chopper that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during a 2003 reporting trip to Iraq, when he was actually safely traveling in a different aircraft.
Brokaw, 74, was still the “Nightly News” anchor when Williams came back from his Iraq expedition — and an insider said he knew the story Williams later spouted was bunk.
“Tom Brokaw and [former NBC News President] Steve Capus knew this was a false story for a long time and have been extremely uncomfortable with it,” the source said.
NBC News execs had counseled him to stop telling the tale.
Williams still took the anchor’s seat for his “Nightly News” broadcast Thursday evening — and was working at 30 Rock all day despite calls for his dismissal. He didn’t address the issue during the broadcast.
Assuming the Post’s report is accurate, this isn’t the first time that someone who passes for a Wise Old Man of TV news has wanted his (comparatively) younger successor fired after he got caught screwing the pooch. Douglas Brinkley’s often hagiographic 2012 biography of Walter Cronkite contains this damning passage regarding Uncle Walter’s bumbling successor:
Determined to be the new Murrow, a crusader for social justice in the twenty-first century, Rather had inadvertently become the Soupy Sales of TV news gathering. When Mike Wallace bumped into Rather in a CBS bathroom in the 60 Minutes offices, a nasty verbal clash erupted between the men. Wallace called Rather, to his face, a shameless creep, a public disgrace, who instead of manning up for Memogate, allowed the fine talents of Mapes*, Howard, Murphy, and West to suffer humiliation. Was that Rather’s idea of courage? “We know it as the battle of the bathroom,” longtime executive producer of 60 Minutes Jeff Fager explained. “It’s never been reported, but it was bad.”
It was then-NBC president Jeff Zucker who chose Williams to replace Brokaw in 2004 and promoted him as the man with the finger on the pulse of America’s Red States, or “NASCAR Nation” as Zucker dubbed them back then. The book Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV explores how Warren Littlefield replaced Brandon Tartikoff as the head of NBC and missed few beats in the 1990s. But how Zucker, Littlefield’s successor, began to wreck the NBC brand starting in 2000, before moving on to work his “magic” with CNN these days will make for quite a history — one that’s still playing out in real time this week.
* No, I don’t think he meant that ironically. Brinkley, like the late Mike Wallace, is likely really only sorry that Rather got caught.
Related: “NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ comments about dead bodies, Hurricane Katrina starting to gain attention, draw scrutiny,” the New Orleans Advocate reports today.
As Mickey Kaus noted in 2005, the MSM saw Katrina as a way to (ultimately successfully, given the results in the midterms the following year) pummel President Bush over Iraq without sounding unpatriotic. Considering how insane the MSM’s coverage quickly became, there could well be plenty of invented stories to go around.
Possibly like this one.
Update: And when you’ve lost Arianna — you’ve likely lost a lot of NBC executives who read her site daily:
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) February 6, 2015
More: The left-leaning Daily Beast also senses blood in the water at 30 Rock: “Brian Williams’s NBC News Bosses Are ‘Hanging Him Out to Dry,’” screams the headline there tonight. “The countdown begins,” Ace adds.