As more reporters examine NBC News’ Brian Williams’ “embellishments,” it appears that NBC was aware of their anchor’s tall tales.
In a recent commentary, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd pointed out that Williams’ constant embellishments of his life story was a “bomb that had been ticking for a while.”
Dowd noted that NBC News execs had been warned over a year ago about his penchant for inflating of his biography. Likely Dowd got her assertion from a Variety report that quoted an NBC insider as saying that Williams had been “counseled” in the past to stop embellishing his bio.
But one respected name in news is keeping himself at arms length from Williams. Tom Brokaw, Williams’ predecessor in the NBC anchor chair and still a powerful influence at NBC, is still looked upon as offering “wise counsel” to network executives. Consequently, in public Brokaw is staying neutral over Williams’ troubles. But Brokaw’s public stance is telling.
Unlike disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather who came out in full support of Williams, Brokaw has demurred from open support and said only that NBC is looking into the matter and that he doesn’t want to inject himself into the process.
This is a sure sign that the powerful Brokaw is not supporting Williams.
Those close to Brokaw allegedly say he is very unhappy over the incident and that he feels it is damaging the NBC news brand. Still, it seems that Brokaw has always been wary of Williams. It is said that the two never hit it off, and Williams has always acted as if he feels threatened by Brokaw.
In fact, early news reported that Brokaw had demanded that NBC fire him. The former anchor was forced to tell the media that he “neither suggested nor demanded Brian be fired.”
Williams’ behavior, though, should not come as a surprise to NBC executives. A new article at Politico quotes an NBC insider who wished to remain anonymous saying that it was well known that Williams was a serial prevaricator.
“Brian always feels the need to embellish,” Politico wrote, “He has always been known for telling stories dramatically, and he’s known for making any story about him. It was more people eye-rolling: ‘That’s Brian.'”
NBC appears to have overlooked the possibility that Williams’ lies could redound negatively on their news brand and never took many steps to stop Williams from bragging.
Those close to Williams are irked that NBC isn’t going full court press in support of their anchor. Even so, the network is staying fairly quiet on Williams, itself a tacit approval of his actions.
Now, as the anchor is enduring criticism as more examples of his tall tales are discovered, Williams has removed himself from the air in hopes that the storm will blow over. He has also canceled a scheduled appearance on the David Letterman Show.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter: @warnerthuston. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.