Ed Driscoll

Mark Steyn: Brian Williams 'is to Anchors as Anthony Wiener is to Wankers'

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Tanned, rested and ready: Just imagine the social media outreach possibilities, NBC! 

“A guy so cocksure he figures he can push it a little further each time,” Steyn writes as he charts “The Life of Brian:”

Assuredly there’s been some turnover in NBC News since 2003. So maybe nobody working on the program now was working on it then. But in TV you’re always looking for ways to show rather than announce, so, if you’ve got a line like that on Brian’s prompter, it defies belief that someone wouldn’t have said, “Hey, grab that footage out of the archive.” And then the intern comes back from the basement and says, “Um, it was somebody else’s helicopter that got forced down…”

I would wager, even as Williams read his line, that most everyone who mattered on the show knew it wasn’t true. And maybe one or two of them looked nervously at each other in the control room, but let it go. Hey, he’s the star, right? NBC Nightly News with Walter Mitty reporting.

Hardly anything on TV at the Brian Williams level is accidental. That riveting account of death-defying derring-do with Letterman would have been worked out during the pre-interview for the show — in other words, the misremembering was painstakingly rehearsed. Maybe Williams is delusional. Maybe he is to anchors as Anthony Wiener is to wankers – a guy so cocksure he figures he can push it a little further each time.

Which brings us to the latest chopper whopper, as spotted by one of Ace of Spades’ co-bloggers. As Ace writes, in 2007, Williams told the kids at Fairfield University, “I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us and it hit the chopper in front of ours:”

Williams starts doing his Sergeant Rock shtick after a question is asked about what story has had the most impact on his life, starting at 1:42. Here is his answer:

“It gets me to thinking, I’ve been very lucky the way my life has turned out, I’ve been very lucky to have survived a few things that I’ve been involved in, at a perception a few minutes ago, I was remembering something I tend to forget, the war with Hezballah in Israel, a few years back, where there were Katuyshka rockets passing just beneath the helicopter I was riding in. A few years before that, you go back to Iraq, and I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us and it hit the chopper in front of ours.”

So 2007 is a transitional phase in the telling of the story. He has not placed himself in the shot-down chopper as he would by 2013, but he is claiming explicitly that the chopper was right in front of him, and he witnessed its shoot-down.

Of course, he adds the whole new detail that he looked into the tube of the RPG launcher which took down the bird.

That seems rather unlikely, given that the chopper that actually got hit was nowhere near Williams’ and was moving in the opposite direction. And as Travis Tritten of Stars & Stripes told CNN’s Jake Tapper today, the radio broadcast of the RPG attack that Williams’ sound guy recorded was from the other chopper.

But in any case, here’s the clip of Brian Williams’ Flight of the Valkyries story, circa 2007:
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As Steyn concludes:

Thirty years ago, it would be difficult to imagine a liar or fantasist surviving in a job that supposedly depends on one’s trustworthiness. Yet today Brian Williams’ survival is the way to bet — because the obsolete format of Big Three “network news” is a dinner-theatre exercise that now bears so little relation to real news that Williams’ ability to project the aura of authority and integrity trumps the reality that he doesn’t actually have any. If you get your news from old-school “network news”, you’re not actually getting any news, you’re watching a guy ’cause he has great hair. So getting it from a delusional narcissist is only taking it to the next level.

But Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, now has the opportunity to really take things to the next level*, as Rush Limbaugh told his listeners today. Why settle for a real news anchor making stories up, when you now have the opportunity to hire the best known fake news anchor in America for the 6:30 news?

Remember how [Turness] backed a Brinks truck up to Jon Stewart and tried to hire him for Meet the Press?

Well, Turness, here’s another golden opportunity to get Stewart.

CBS got Colbert.  NBC could get Stewart.

So you’re out there professing your love and admiration and your total unblinding support for Brian Williams, you’re secretly trying to hire Jon Stewart to do the news.  I mean, if you’re gonna have Jon Stewart host Meet the Press, what does that say about Meet the Press and what does it say about what the news has become?  If it’s not about numbers anymore, if it’s all about bragging rights and getting the hippest dude as Les Moonves said when he hired Colbert, well, here’s a chance for Deborah Turness to make another run at Jon Stewart, while everybody thinks Brian Williams is safe.

It makes a certain amount of sense: the nightly news format is fossilized, as Mark writes above. Furness and the Obama-supporting CEO of Comcast likely wouldn’t hire someone openly conservative, no matter how much he would boost NBC’s ratings. Hiring Stewart is their only other bet to shake up the ancient 6:30 news format, and likely the job — and the Brinks truck of cash — would be his if Stewart wants the gig.

And if he doesn’t, like the phalanx of British drummers who sent their resumes in to Led Zeppelin and The Who when John Bonham and Keith Moon went off to the Happy Groupie Hunting Grounds, there’s no shortage of newsreaders (or narrative readers as Rush has taken to calling them) eager to replace Williams. Katie Couric is telling anyone who will listen that she’d love to bail on her low-rent Yahoo.com gig and return to NBC. I doubt very much she’s the only out-of-work TV newsreader whose emailing in a CV to NBC right now.

*As to whether or not “the next level” is moving things up or down I leave to you, but when even Dylan Byers of the left-wing Politico site can see “The Decline and Fall of NBC News,” you know things are hitting bottom at the once well-respected network.

Related: Brian Williams, humble friend of the working man at his most downtrodden:

Update (11:45 AM 2/7/15): Report: Brian Williams Could Step Down Early Next Week. And at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey explores the other story that Williams tosses out in the above clip to the journalism students at Fairfield University in 2007: “I tend to forget the war with Hezbollah in Israel a few years back, where there were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding.” The “I tend to forget” being shot at by rockets is a nice touch.

And the New York Post rounds up more of Williams’ tall tales:  “Brian Williams’ heroic stories include Princess Di and Hurricane Katrina:”

“I lost a very good friend to Agent Orange-related cancer,” he told Alec Baldwin in a March 2013 interview on the “30 Rock” actor’s “Here’s the Thing” show on WNYC radio.

“I was in the hospital room with him. It was a Saturday night, I had just done ‘Nightly News.’ My pager went off: ‘Diana, car accident, Paris.’ I called the office, and they said, ‘You better get in here,’ ” Williams recalled.

“I had no idea that I’d be announcing to what was then, I mean, they plugged us into cable all over Europe. I have people wherever I go to this day who say, ‘I was with you the night Diana died,’” the anchor said.

Williams has spun more wild story lines than his own network’s sitcoms.

He said armed gangs constantly threatened him and his terrified crew while they were covering Hurricane Katrina.

“Unfortunately for Williams, authorities had said five years earlier that stories about armed gangs running amok were not true.” Plus a video of Williams telling Brokaw in 2010 that “we watched, all of us watched, as one man committed suicide” in the New Orleans Superdome. But, as the Post adds, “But he later admitted it was only a story he had heard about and not seen himself.” And as The Blaze deadpans, “Brian Williams Once Claimed to See a Body Floating Down the Street After Katrina. There’s Just One Problem…”

Plus from the Daily Caller, “Brian Williams Told Two Different Stories About His 1994 Interview With Nelson Mandela.” All of which dovetails perfectly into our exit quote:

Update (6:15 PM Pacific): Brian Williams Stepping Away From NBC Nightly News.

(Photo atop post based on a modified AP image.)