Brian Williams has given his first interview since being bounced from the NBC anchor desk, leading to a greater question of why does NBC News employ a journalist who acknowledges making things up when most respectable news organizations want nothing to do with journalism’s cardinal sin?
“This came from clearly a bad place, a bad urge inside of me,” Williams told Matt Lauer, an anchor of “Today” on NBC today. “This was clearly ego driven, the desire to better my role in a story I was already in.”
That’s a significant confession from a guy who originally blamed confusion for his initial, well, lies.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams told Stars and Stripes just a few months ago. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
But Williams is still in denial, even as he appears to confess. He told Lauer he didn’t intend to mislead anyone and that he simply chose his words badly.
“It had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else,” he told Lauer. “I told the story correctly for years, before I told it incorrectly. I was not trying to mislead people, (and) that to me is a huge difference. It came from a bad place. It came from a sloppy choice of words. I told stories that were not true. Over the years, looking back, it is very clear I never intended to. It got mixed up, it got turned around, in my mind.
“I said things that were wrong,” he said. “Looking back, with such clarity now, it is so clear to me, I said things that were wrong. I told stories that were wrong. It wasn’t from a place where I was trying to use my job and title to mislead. I got it wrong. I own this, and I own up this.”
To summarize: Williams didn’t choose to make up facts. His ego forced him to.
Williams says he’s grateful for the “second chance,” which Jack Shafer at Politico says isn’t really a second chance.
Everybody deserves a second chance. That includes convicts who have done their time in prison as well as TV newsreaders like Brian Williams who have sincerely apologized for their naughtiness and completed their rehabilitation. But Williams’ rapid return—he goes back on the air in August—looks more like a continuation of his first chance than the beginning of his second. Go ahead and blame Williams for his recklessness, but save some outrage for NBC News’ hull-scraping pragmatism.