THE BLOG

Brian Williams and the Death of Integrity

06/22/2015 05:17 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2016

Six months after NBC placed Evening News anchor Brian Williams on "leave of absence" without pay for some "irregularities" in the content he spoons to viewers. NBC's internal sleuths discovered up to a dozen events that were inconsistent or just plain manufactured by Brian. No telling how many more are out there. NBC predictably revealed its lack of spine in announcing the return to the newsroom of this serial fabricator. True, he will command a less visible podium in his new spot at cable channel MSNBC, but to me, it is a bloodstain on a clean shirt to be associated with him in any way. Somehow, I am incapable of imagining Walter Cronkite embellishing a helicopter ride into a combat mission, ducking the swirling machine gun fire and the hectic adrenaline of death in the air. Or Huntley and Brinkley promoting themselves using Hurricane Katrina or the Arab Spring as a backdrop.

Mr. Williams exemplifies the slow migration from a virtuous news anchor transmogrified to evening entertainer, or pseudo rock star, and along this muddy road, the news has degenerated to a secondary concern; So inconsequential, that his dispatches morphed into little more than a convenient prop for the self-aggrandizement of Mr. Williams. Facts were subordinated and became garnish for the main course. But the fish served was spoiled rotten from the stench of his prevarications.

What kind of psychological disorder compels a person with $10 million on his annual IRS form 1099 to, with blatant pre-meditation, repeatedly perjure himself in front of an audience of millions? At the very least he has a vivid imagination.....like a child playing army. Apparently Mr. Williams does not possess that little bell within his cranium that beeps when a moral barrier has been crossed. Most refer to it as a conscience.

Certainly he is followed by hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of social media groupies. Is there any quid pro quo for these waves of adulation? Or is his mere presence, his veneer, enough for this apotheosis? Can't the acolytes see their emperor is naked? I would want that the worshipers at the altar of the Brian Williams cult are discerning enough to demand more. But in these celebratory days of transgender, and transracial and whatever else........who knows?

The Today Show

Mr. Williams tried to explain himself to the Today Show's Matt Lauer. His mea culpa nauseated with platitudes such as "I was not trying to mislead people". Premeditated lying seems just the opposite to me. Another one, "This came from clearly a bad place, a bad urge inside me". Didn't come from Brian, rather a malevolent outside force invaded his spirit and made him do it. "It was a sloppy choice of words". I have never heard such a description of mendaciousness. The interview came across as threadbare and only exacerbated my revulsion. It resembled a celebrity photo op.

What about NBC?

In light of the incontrovertible facts what debates transpired in the plumbing at NBC? No doubt, they put their best statisticians on it. Do viewers care if the anchor is a liar? Or does charisma and smile overcome any egregious shortcomings of morals? Ad revenues and audience numbers were measured before and after this debacle. Maybe they concluded, it isn't such a disaster. Perhaps the cost-benefit analysis yielded any lost advertising dollars are mitigated by a lower salary paid to the talking head replacement. Every economic angle was no doubt parsed. I wonder if any NBC executive stood up argued that Williams is a documented serial liar and as such, the only tenable option would be to purge the cancer and end his employment. FYI, Lester Holt will ostensibly become permanent evening anchor, and he is, no doubt in the interest of equal treatment, also demanding $10 million annually.

A sincere apology by Mr. Williams confessing the litany of deceptions with full responsibility is a sin qua none for forgiveness. It is a far cry from being enough to give him any job back. Tigers don't often change their stripes. His reinstatement is a sad comment on society. Dollars and cents are the daggers that trump integrity.