MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted that this was an “awkward” situation: Reporting as an MSNBC anchor on the suspension of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams over his Iraq war embellishments. At the top of her eponymous program last night, Maddow (who is also a Washington Post columnist) methodically sifted through the particulars of the story, including Williams’ false statements, the internal review by NBC News and the statements from NBC leaders regarding the suspension.
Then Maddow got real, offering a full-throated explanation of the awkwardness. She noted that MSNBC and NBC News co-own a certain acronym for a reason: “We are working partners,” she said. “But tonight, even as we are reporting on this breaking news about the news division of which we are a part, no, NBC News will not make anyone available to discuss this story with us on the air.” Like a news person, Maddow held out the possibility that things would change. “You`d think if they`re going to talk to anybody about this, we might reasonably get a leg up on getting interviews with any NBC News executives to explain this decision, if only because we`re right down the hall,” said the host, adding, “I live in hope.”
That’s a delightful way for the host to expose NBC News for applying the best practices of crisis PR — and the worst practices of journalistic transparency — to the Brian Williams situation: Say very little on the record; release statements here and there to feed hungry reporters; keep the key people under wraps. At least Maddow feels empowered to chide her employer.