The biggest surprise to me was that there are those of us who view the people sitting in the anchor chairs at NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and FOX News as actual journalists.
Brian Williams is a genuine talent. I’ve seen the YouTube replays of his many successful late-night appearances; “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “30 Rock,” the host of, “Saturday Night Live.” He has good timing, is self-depreciating, and steady. What is not mentioned enough, is that these appearances, while they achieve the not-so-subtle desire of NBCUniversal executives to drive up traffic to NBC’s many offerings, they inadvertently make Williams a less reputable newsman.
While driving to work, I heard a report on the radio that went something like, “Tom Brokaw announced today that he had warned NBC News for two years that Brian Williams was misleading the American public about his experiences in Iraq.” Allegedly, Brokaw personally looked into Williams’ claims and found that the facts did not match up. It would have been helpful if Brokaw had employed the same level of scrutiny to the intelligence being offered as reason to invade Iraq.
In February 2003, when the case for war in Iraq was being made across the nations airwaves, Tom Brokaw sat in the most powerful chair in the news business. According to a 2003 PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll, 55% of respondents who watched NBC News held at least 1 of the following misperceptions: that evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda have been found, that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and/or that world opinion favored America going into war with Iraq.
Like Williams, Brokaw spent time away from the anchor desk to pursue other interests. He published “The Greatest Generation” (1998) (a title that always seemed to me, at best, something that is impossible to prove, and, at worst, a pandering bone thrown to a coveted nightly news demographic).
Brokaw published three more books from 1999-2002. Perhaps he could be a little more self-aware than to throw verbal darts at Brian Williams.
Just this week, Tom Brokaw was awarded The American Spirit Award from The National World War II Museum located in New Orleans. According to the museum’s official website the award, “recognizes individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. The award honors those who make unselfish contributions to their community, state or nation; lead by example; exhibit the highest standards of integrity, discipline and initiative; and exemplify core values that were critical to the Allied war effort – teamwork, optimism, loyalty, courage and sacrifice.”
If Brokaw embodied the characteristics of the award he was presented, he would have the integrity to admit he did not posses the discipline and initiative to investigate the claims being made on NBC Nightly News.
While Brokaw may not have personally or willfully mislead the American public, he did not do his journalistic diligence to protect all generations from the people who were actively misleading the American public into a war against a country that had no connection to 9/11 and who posed no direct threat to America.