The PJ Tatler

Brian Williams: Death by a Thousand Leaks

Late last week, a slew of anonymous leaks, presumably from NBC news sources, plunged a few daggers into the decomposing carcass of former anchorman Brian Williams. The leaks were designed, says another source, to lessen Williams’ negotiating power as the network readies the ax to fire him.

Politico’s Mike Allen reports:

Longtime broadcast executives say a triple crown of leaks about Brian Williams late last week appear to be an effort by NBC News to shame him into resigning, to avoid the messiness and possible additional expense of the firing. The brutal leaks were designed to send the message to Brian Williams and his superlawyer, Robert Barnett: “You’re dead. Now negotiate.”

This is the effect of the leaks, if not the intention. NBC insiders say his return is still possible. Look for a resolution over the next several weeks.

Williams was reported to be under a contract of as much as $50 million (five years, at up to $10 million each). Speculation is that he’ll get $20 million to $30 million to leave. The $20 million camp says that he’s so weak, he’ll get less than 50 cents on the dollar. The $30 million camp says Brian has plenty of ways to embarrass the bosses and colleagues who threw him under the bus, and NBC should stop the bleeding/leaking. “He knows things, too,” a wise man pointed out.

–A FEW PROBLEMS with this theory: Some of the leaks are arguably inaccurate. The Williams camp believes that it can disprove them, and that only a small number of incidents will prove to be problematic. And even those are explainable.


–WashPost’s Paul Farhi reported on the front of Friday’s Style section, “NBC’s D.C. news bureau opposed Brian Williams’s return as anchor” (online: … D.C. bureau strongly opposed … Williams’s return in February”)

–NYT’s Ravi Somaiya reported above fold of Saturday’s Business front (with A1 tease), “NBC Inquiry Into Anchor Is Said to Get New Grist”: “[Discrepancies are evident in accounts given by Mr. Williams in February 2011 [about his reporting from Egypt’s Tahrir Square] … In an appearance that month with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show,’ Mr. Williams described his reporting from the square. …

“Subsequent reports said that Mr. Williams was reporting ‘from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square,’ rather than from inside the square itself … [E]mployees in the news division provided examples for the investigating team to look into, flagging instances in which they thought Mr. Williams had exaggerated.”

–Farhi reported online Saturday: “NBC News finds Brian Williams embellished at least 11 times.”

“He knows things too” is an interesting threat. Remember the car NBC’s Dateline deliberately set on fire? How about the edited recording of George Zimmerman? And those are the lies we know about. Might Williams be sitting on some blockbuster stories NBC deliberately skewed or created?

That may be one reason Williams is likely to get a huge settlement despite his tall tales. NBC News is going to be absolutely sure that Williams keeps his mouth shut once he’s gone. In fact, there may be some kind of non-disclosure agreement attached to his lump sum payment.

The writing is on the wall for Williams. The leaks serve only to further soil his tattered reputation.