Who’s going to get to the bottom of the Brian Williams affair?
When the New York Times faced its own crisis over serial fabricator Jayson Blair in 2003, the newspaper conducted an exhaustive review of his reporting and its top editors’ handling of it — top editors who were soon out of their jobs at the Old Grey Lady.
When CBS News had its own “fake but accurate” scandal over George W. Bush’s National Guard service, longtime anchorman Dan Rather lost both his job and his reputation (though there are rumors that he’s still on cable TV somewhere.)
NBC has established a “team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired,” NBC News President Deborah Turness wrote in a memo to her staff last week. “We’re working on what the best next steps are – and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you.”
Well, a lot of the rest of the country is hoping NBC shares it with them, too. This isn’t just a media story – like one could argue Jayson Blair’s malfeasance was with The New York Times.
And it isn’t necessarily political like “Rathergate” and its election eve nonsense was. While Williams is known as a liberal, his critics are from all points on the political spectrum – anything that can get the Times’ Maureen Dowd and Rush Limbaugh on the same side is a bipartisan affair.
Even people who didn’t know who Brian Williams was 10 days ago have an opinion on what he is now.
So no matter how thorough and transparent the NBC investigation turns out to be, it’s not likely to be enough to satisfy an American public.
Williams’ downfall – and it is a downfall – is a news story and should be treated as such. An internal investigation by NBC or any other corporation isn’t what’s called for in a matter of public interest. It deserves a public accounting.
As the Daily Beast’s Jeff Greenfield wrote:
“I don’t know what NBC—or outside investigators—are going to find. I don’t know if it makes sense (assuming no other transgressions) for Williams to sit down with a smart, tough but fair inquisitor—Megyn Kelly? Jon Stewart? … and answer whatever questions are thrown his way.”
It’s a valid point, but for one thing. As much as liberals might like the guy — and conservatives loathe him — Jon Stewart can’t really be described as “tough but fair inquisitor” when it comes to someone like Williams. Whatever his intelligence and occasional flashes of brilliance, even, Stewart is a comedian — and a dyed-in-the-wool lib comedian to boot.
Kelly, on the other hand, truly is a “tough but fair inquisitor” — no matter how much liberals might dislike the Fox News Channel (a favorite target of Stewart barbs, by the way). When even The New York Times Magazine writes a flattering piece about a Fox News host, she’s got some street cred.
If Williams really wants to come clean, a round of questions on “The Kelly File” would be an ideal choice.
Assuming he answers them truthfully, we might be getting somewhere.
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