Brian Williams’ Suspension



This is smoke and mirrors.

From Politico:

“NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay following his false claims about an experience he had during the Iraq war, NBC News president Deborah Turness announced Tuesday night.”


1.  An untrustworthy anchorman does not turn into a trustworthy one because he hasn’t worked for 6 months.

2. NBC apparently thinks, or hopes the public will think, that the issue is punishing Williams. Undoubtedly, there are (ethically obtuse, ignorant) people who think this way, but the issue is trust. Williams has shown, by lying to the public for more than a decade about his Iraq experience and probably more, that he cannot be trusted to do what his job requires: truthfully and reliably telling the public what happens in the world.

3. That an organization allegedly dedicated to broadcast journalism doesn’t understand that, or worse, does understand it and will retain an untrustworthy anchor anyway because he might still be profitable—after the heat is off, that is—is an indictment of that organization’s lack of courage, integrity, honesty, professionalism, and respect for its audience.

4. NBC says that its investigation of Williams will continue. I think it is possible, even likely, that he will not return. That means that this half-measure’s main result may be to mark NBC as a cynical, venal organization for which journalism is neither a calling nor a profession, but a sham and a profit center.

5. We will see if NBC’s audience is as gullible, foolish, and easily manipulated as this action suggests the network believes it is. If viewers just return to Williams like sheep, it is difficult to see why any news organization would value honesty and integrity, since its market doesn’t.

UPDATES (2/11)

From Althouse:“I guess they want to see if we’ll forget why he left and start wondering why he’s gone, so they can bring him back. That’s all very lame and pathetic, and I don’t watch the nightly news, so there’s a limit to my outrage about NBC’s wan interest in the truth.”

From Ruth Marcus (WaPo): “Some discussion of Williams’s fate has involved his central role at NBC and whether the network could “afford” to lose its most recognizable franchise. This is the network version of “too big to fail” — that Williams is too important to can. I see it the opposite way: Williams’s elevated status subjects him to a higher standard of behavior, and more rigorous consequences. The face of NBC News cannot afford to be so scarred.”


19 thoughts on “Brian Williams’ Suspension

          • My god. You really are that stupid. Not only are you digging up that old spectre, but it takes a special kind of willful ignorance to post that link assuming it reinforced your agenda.

            NBC edited George Zimmerman’s 9-1-1 call to make him sound like a racist. They did it to fit the narrative. And when he sued for defamation, the chief justice didn’t say that Zimmerman was wrong, she said “There are no genuine issues of material fact upon which a reasonable jury could find that the Defendants acted with actual malice.” and that the malice standard was appropriate because Zimmerman is a public figure. And in the context of a news anchor making up a story, this is another example of a major media outlet betraying the public trust.

            Maybe I`m wrong. Maybe you aren`t saying the media was wrong not to report a vindication of something against Zimmerman against the backdrop of the lie that caused the situation in the first place. But I find that hard to believe.

            • That’s a troubling line of reasoning. In effect, any major news organization can defame someone while turning him into a public figure, making themselves immune to the defamation claim. Without the media hype about Zimmerman it would have stayed a local issue.

              Also, Penn, in fact we DID hear about it. Go ahead and google zimmerman nelson nbc defamation. Pretty much every major news organization covered it. It didn’t get a lot of notice because Zimmerman was no longer a big story at the time. It was going to be appealed. I don’t see any information since so I would guess it’s still pending.

              • To be fair to the Justice, Zimmerman would have been a public figure with or without NBC’s help. I just wish the test for defamation wasn’t “the guy is a public figure, so our lies don’t matter”. it’s NBC, not satire. Or maybe it is…. Fuck. That almost makes sense. Guys! I got it. NBC is SATIRE!

                • You have to literally make up stuff and fabricate evidence wholesale, like in the Gen. Westmoreland case.If MSNBC had reported that GZ was a Klansman, watched “Birth of a Nation” every night and kept slaves chained in his basement, that might be defamation.

            • The defamation suit was a longshot. Zimmerman had to prove reckless disregard of facts as well as malice…both there, I think, but really hard to prove when the defense would be “we just tried to streamline a recording and made a mistake.” A jury, especially one that hates Zimmerman (and it’s hard not to) would be likely to believe that. But NBC isn’t vindicated at all.

            • As usual, Humble Talent, I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. My “agenda” was to point out (in the CONTENT of the article – as I said – that NBC has an ethics problem it has shown before by the way the 9-1-1 call was edited. And, secondarily, that about as small a percentage of the public that care about retractions in general, paid attention to the report of that editing. I’m not arguing the legal outcome of the case Zimmerman brought, if that’s what you think you’re getting at. Just an addendum off to the side to Texagg04.

              • Phlinn, if you think “they” referred to you, as a regular contributor to Ethics Alarms who would already be expected to know all the back-story, that’s your problem.

                If you want to get stroppy, better wait for something that makes sense.

              • I’m sorry Penn, when you said “they haven’t heard about this either” and then linked a blurb on how GZ’s defamation lawsuit was thrown out, I took it to mean that you thought that people didn’t know about GZ’s suit being thrown out. What the hell was I thinking?

                • Humble Talent, I usually don’t go back over contentious discussions that I have closed on — there’s no point –, but I’m glad I did it this time. As far as I’m concerned, you get a #1 on the Apology Scale. In return, with respect, I will avoid expression of personal animus toward you in future.

  1. Any audience that has remained steadfast to NBC and its slanted output over all this time will likely stay that way, whether Williams returns or not. If he does return, they’ll watch him and worship his image just as they would any celebrity of any medium, no matter how despicable they may be in real life. They don’t call it “the idiot box” for nothing! Nor has that appellation ever been more justified than in the present day.

  2. Have not heard #1 since my days in the labor section, when an administrative judge ruled that “a suspension will not make an incompetent employee competent.” However, the shoe definitely fits here.

    #4 is painfully obvious. As was pointed out earlier, the news has now become very commercialized, and it’s all about ratings and profit over truth.

    I hold out some hope that this is just the prelude to ultimately firing Williams, but I think it is more like a finger in the wind to see if/when NBC can bring Williams back. Social media reactions have been mixed, with some saying firing is appropriate, but also a slew of ethics dodges, including “nobody’s perfect,” “Bush lied too,” and my favorite so far “I hope YOUR employer is just as unforgiving.”

    This is the world of idiots that folks like Williams thrive in.

  3. Brian Williams should be fired, but so should most of the writers/editors/broadcasters in the mainstream media (those working for newspapers, those that still exist, should go as well, with the exception of the very few realistic and honest editorial writers).

    News is not news: it is politics; it is covering up “bad” news that doesn’t fit with the news outlet’s ideology (e.g., covering disasters minute-by-minute for weeks and months, ad nauseum, along with sappy “human interest stories” that may or may not be true); it is not a search for the truth, or an ethical approach to reporting — it is simply a business. (Case in point: if I have to hear Robin Meade say “‘Mornin’ Sunshine!” one more time, and listen to her “coverage” of news and non-news, my head will explode. And she’s not the worst of them.

    Fire ’em all. A fanciful idea, but we CAN stop watching. Money talks, and viewership means everything to the “business.'” So we have some power here. If we have the intelligence and guts to find our real news elsewhere.

  4. The downfall of Brian Williams has been nothing less than a gift from heaven. Of course, expecting the rest of the MSM to do this story justice is irony of the highest order. So every now and then, when there’s a little rip in the Matrix, and their lying act is in danger of being exposed, they need to sacrifice one of their own to appear forthright and honorable to their brainwashed and fast diminishing customer base. Watching this farce play out in the Corporate Media looks like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel. The hypocracy is that surreal.

    Will people eventually accept Brian Williams back at the anchor desk?

    People are different than they were, say thirty years ago, when this kind of behavior automatically warranted immediate dismissal for the offending newsperson. There would not have been weeks of speculation as to whether his career would survive. There would be no “six months probation”.

    Nowadays, people have been conditioned to not be “JUDGEMENTAL”. This speaks to the Humanist ideal of Situational Ethics that has been incrementally weaved into our culture over the past five or six decades. Now the standard for gauging personal behavior is no longer black and white. All “truth” now is varying shades gray. Every circumstance, every offense is relative to a particular situation. Truthyness.

    Brian Williams, The Poor Misguided Victim, will “get help”. Medical science will determine that he was suffering from some kind of latent Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. If they can’t find a proper “disease” or disorder, then they will make up a new one for this very special circumstance. He will get the necessary counseling and come out a better, more “self-realized” person (or some such crap). Next, he will perform a Secular Act of Contrition on National TeeVee. Brian’s professional colleagues in the Corporate Media — serial liars in their own right — will absolve him of all wrong doing — BECAUSE EVERYONE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE. “New and Improved Brian” will then hit the Talk Show Circuit, whereby he will repeat his Act of Contrition/Dog & Pony Show until he covers all the necessary demographics.

    And this is how he will probably be allowed to keep his LYING *SS parked at the network anchor news desk for the next decade. The only way he will NOT be allowed to stay on the TeeVee, is if the ratings tank so bad, they will HAVE to pull him off the air.

    Money is the final gauge of truth when it comes to Right and Wrong in the new Bizarro Millennium.

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