Big bad brouhaha over at NBC with anchor Brian Williams misremembering being shot down in a helicopter on a trip to Iraq, when the facts seem to indicate that although he did fly in a helicopter, and was over Iraq, he was not shot down. Well, come on; the guy was close. Got 2 out of 3. They keep you in the bigs with a .667 batting average, right? Well, this time around… maybe not.
Easy to see how this could happen, though. Self- aggrandizement is a tool centermost in the desk drawer of every show business aspirant. Especially pretty boy anchors with a tendency to read every story in a patented stentorian melodramatic “crisis averted, but barely” voice.
In Hollywood, resumes are so routinely full of baloney, they should be printed on the back of old deli menus. But even in the real world, who hasn’t fudged the particulars of an exciting incident to make oneself a more central character? The only difference here is he did it on television. In front of the entire world. For 12 consecutive years.
The Hellcat that was former president Ronald Regan used to regale the press with exciting stories from his Navy days. At least he thought he did. What he really was sharing were exciting stories from when he was making a movie about being in the Navy. At least Brian Williams was referring to something that happened in real life. Albeit to someone else. Making him only semi- delusional. Which in the news industry is considered downright stable.
And be honest, don’t you just love that term… “misremembered.” Sounds so much nicer than “lied” or “engaged in a prolonged period of willful deceitfulness” or “so full of hogwash he probably smells like bacon when he gets up in the morning and can’t look at himself in the mirror.”
Besides, the events of that day seem fairly impervious to pinning down; the flight engineer and the pilot of the Chinook have totally different recollections as to whether the chopper did or didn’t take fire. This whole misremembering thing seems to be contagious. Making the situation more complicated than the assembly instructions for a combination wine- rack/ bookcase/ dog bed, on wheels, from IKEA.
One minor problem is you could say that Brian’s job as lead personality of a network’s news division kind of, sort of, in some ways, depends on just an eensy teensy tiny bit of credibility. While it seems with this prevarication, he’s managed to reinforce Sarah Palin’s “the lamestream media always lies” claim. And legitimizing Sarah Palin, that’s never good.
Furthermore, it raises the ugly specter of what happens when Mr. Williams is forced to report on an entirely different RPG attack on a helicopter? Or a case of stolen honor? Might it not appear ironic, on air? Be like Tiger Woods giving a speech on marital fidelity. Bill Cosby holding forth on family values. Tom Brady interviewing Lance Armstrong. Or Kim Kardashian filming a commercial about shameless hucksterism.
To atone for his gaffe, Brian Williams should be encouraged to do the right thing, which would be to travel to Disneyland to contract the measles, then infiltrate the Kremlin and infest Putin. Of course he could always quit and move over to Fox News. Would fit right in.
Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed political comic. Go to willdurst.com to find about about “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG,” info about the documentary film “3 Still Standing” and a calendar of personal appearances such as this week at the Tahoe Improv at Harvey’s Resort.