What’s the deal with Brian Williams? The NBC news anchor and former Middletown, New Jersey resident, once the “most trusted name in journalism”, baffles me. By now, we’ve all heard Mr. Williams’ accounts of his wild adventures: his helicopter taking fire in Iraq, his view of a floating, dead body during Hurricane Katrina, his rescue of puppies from a burning building. On the heels of those tall tales comes this whopper: CNN.com reports Brian Williams lied about meeting Pope John Paul II back in 1979. So what’s going on here? Is Williams a pathological liar? Does he crave attention? Are his lies merely a sophomoric attempt to remain “big man on campus”? I’ve met a few liars in my day, participants in an ongoing personal game of “can you top that?”, people who fib so easily and so often they lose track of their own stories (might explain the inconsistent details in Williams’ alleged adventures). But why would an individual tell a lie (in Williams’ case, BIG lies), that can be disputed by witnesses or simple fact checking? Why would Williams, who rakes in $10 million dollars a year (are journalists worth that; I think not!) risk losing his hefty paycheck, and more importantly, his reputation, by publicly lying? And how on earth could Brian Williams’ fabrications go unchallenged for so long? Baffling!
Through his own duplicity, the “most trusted name in journalism” now sadly emerges the butt of all jokes. Hopefully, Brian Williams has a sense of humor; he’s going to need it! Did you know Brian Williams was actually the first man to walk on the moon? He also road shotgun with O.J. Simpson during that infamous white bronco chase, was captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and was present during some of the most important moments in our nation’s history. ObamaDiary.com “quotes” Brian Williams as saying the following during his meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King: “Martin, do you dream? He said yes. I said, well, tell the folks about your dreams.” The Morning Spew imagines Williams conversing with Abraham Lincoln: “then I said, Abe, instead of 87 years ago, why not try four score and seven years ago?” To laugh at more Brian Williams “memories”, log onto popsugar.com. Each quip is funnier than the next.
In reality, however, the Brian Williams mess is not funny, and boils down to this: a respected, highly paid (over paid!) journalist, who apparently lives in “la-la land”, fooled the world. And we, the viewers, helped him do it. We might even be responsible for his tendency to stretch the truth. After-all, the bigger, the better. Right? That goes for our cars, our houses, our technology, our movies, our news. It has to be over-the-top! We want heroes! We want adventure! Forget about the flat, boring Five Ws of news reporting (who/what/when/where/why); we want salacious details! We want our nightly news to be entertaining. Little wonder newscasters may feel compelled to insert themselves into the fray and become our heroes, our idols, our celebrities. Thus, viewers may have unintentionally created Pinocchio Williams on the Nightly News.
Even so, that does not excuse Brian Williams’ behavior. NBC has suspended Williams without pay for six months pending full investigation. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; we probably haven’t heard the last of this man’s tall tales. I doubt sincerely Williams will ever sit in his nightly news chair again. And he shouldn’t. Clearly, the man has a problem. Either that, or we, the viewers, do.