In a glowing tribute to radical left-wing commentator Gore Vidal on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams could barely contain his adoration for the "prolific writer" who was "unquestionably brilliant." Williams further gushed that Vidal, "got his larger wish in life, to be remembered as both a polemicist and a man of letters. One of the most active and agile minds of his generation."
Compare that fawning eulogy to the shots Williams took at conservative icon William F. Buckley, upon his death in 2008: "Buckley paid dearly for some of his words: His defense of Senator Joe McCarthy, his early views on race and remarks he made about AIDS, saying those with AIDS should be tattooed to prevent its spread."
On Wednesday, not once did Williams make any reference to Vidal's hard left ideology, nor even use the liberal label to describe the late writer. The most critical comment from Williams was that Vidal "could also be a terrible bully and fought sometimes physically with Mailer, Capote, and famously with William F. Buckley on live television in 1968."
A clip played of the contentious exchange with Buckley, whom Vidal smeared as a "crypto-Nazi."
Williams glossed over Vidal's anti-Americanism – the author argued America deserved the September 11th attacks – instead simply remarking that Vidal " died believing America was in deep decline that started long ago." Williams also made sure to note that Vidal "was born at West Point because his dad worked there" and later "joined the Army."
All big three network morning shows on Wednesday praised Vidal for his "scathing wit" and being a "cultural icon." None mentioned Vidal's left-wing bomb throwing.
Wednesday's CBS Evening News eagerly labeled Texas senate primary winner Ted Cruz as conservative multiple times, while refusing to use the liberal label for Vidal once.
Here is a full transcript of Williams's August 1 obituary to Vidal:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Coming up tonight, the loss of an American who had lived a larger than average American life.
WILLIAMS: Gore Vidal has died. And in looking back today at his life, it's difficult to pin down and define all that he was. As The New York Times put it today, quote, "He believed himself to be the last of a breed and was probably right."
The Gore Vidal story begins with breeding. His family was steeped in U.S. History, a senator on his mother's side. His father worked for FDR and Vidal hobnobbed with everyone, including Kennedys and half of Hollywood. Al Gore was a distant relative. Gore Vidal believed humans were inherently bisexual and he practiced what he preached as much as physically possible. He was a public figure who was on TV a lot and a prolific writer, the author of 25 novels, including Myra Breckenridge, Burr and Lincoln. He also wrote for TV and films, including Ben Hur. His play, The Best Man, is currently on Broadway. He was unquestionably brilliant and could also be a terrible bully and fought sometimes physically with Mailer, Capote, and famously with William F. Buckley on live television in 1968.
GORE VIDAL: As far as I'm concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto-Nazi I think of is yourself.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: Now listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the god damn face and you'll stay plastered.
WILLIAMS: He was born at West Point because his dad worked there. And after prep school at Exeter, he joined the Army. He died believing America was in deep decline that started long ago. He got his larger wish in life, to be remembered as both a polemicist and a man of letters. One of the most active and agile minds of his generation.
Gore Vidal died in Los Angeles at the age of 86.