The crew on “Morning Joe” today demonstrated why people with huge conflicts of interest vis-a-vis Brian Williams should stay away from the topic of Brian Williams. “We all make bad mistakes,” said host Joe Scarborough following a summary of the anchor’s scandalous embellishments/lies regarding a reporting trip to Iraq in 2003. “I’m hopeful that when all of the madness on Twitter and all of the madness online, and . . . the investigations — that need to be going on . . . but when the fury dies down and when we get through the storm and the decision is made to judge what Brian Williams’s future should be, that that decision will be based on the entirety of his career and not on one or two or three mistakes,” said Scarborough in a chat with fellow MSNBCers Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist.
To his credit, Scarborough prefaced this hope by saying that not only is Williams a colleague but also is a friend and neighbor. “They have been nothing but extraordinarily kind and giving people,” said Scarborough of Williams’s family.
A few things to which Scarborough is blinded, perhaps by his connections with Williams:
*The “madness on Twitter” sounds like a guy trying to dismiss the backlash against Williams as the work of a cohort of crazy online people. But if you actually read the “madness on Twitter,” you’ll find posts that provide perspective and humor. For instance:
*Scarborough’s assessment appears premised on a finite backlash — that if we just hunker down for a few days, the “madness” will abate. Perhaps it will. What Scarborough fails to consider, however, is that this fuse is perma-lit: The next time Williams has to report on an armed conflict, the backlash rages again. When he has to report on decorations bestowed on military service members, backlash. When he has to report on Iraq, backlash. Again when he has to report on some politician embellishing his accomplishments. As the roster of Williams’s embellishments grows — now including Hurricane Katrina and other adventures — so does his exposure to evergreen ridicule.
*At one point in his defense of Williams, Scarborough says this with a ton of drama in his voice: “I’m in no position to cast the first stone,” said the host. “Quite frankly, in over a decade in this news business, it is fair to say, looking straight into the camera, I’ve seen a lot, I know a lot and I know that there are very few people in this in this industry or in politics that could live by the standard of perfection.”
Is this host withholding some scoops from his viewers?
*There’s no evidence that Williams’s transgressions are “mistakes,” a term that can be used to describe taking a wrong turn on the highway.
*Venue matters. “You have to ask the question, ‘Where was it done?'” noted Scarborough, in making the strongest point of the discussion. “Was it done on David Letterman or did he make it a habit of doing it when he was reporting the news? Obviously when he was reporting the news would make it much worse.” Indeed, the most damaging stuff cited against Williams comes from interviews with third parties, and not from “NBC Nightly News” transcripts. Should NBC News decide to hang on to its anchor, expect to see this argument resurface.