Brian Williams celebrated five years as NBC Nightly News anchor on Wednesday night. Most TV hosts would suggest that like five years of marriage, this is worth a small nod on camera. But Williams turned it into a Ego Festival. First came the end-of-show speech, which sounded like he should be holding an Oscar: thanks to the wife, the kids, the first responders, everyone who inspires him. He couldn’t have done it without you.
Then came the promotional film, complete with liberal bias. Williams pushing President Bush: "Do you have any moments of doubt, that we fought the wrong war?" Williams pushing Ahmadinejad: "You called the Holocaust a myth. Why?" Over the Grant Park video, Williams celebrating the election results: "The United States has a president-elect named Barack Obama."
There is no clip of Williams pressing Obama, only walking next to him with a groupie grin on his face. [See more gushing video below the fold.]
Viewers are supposed to be impressed: he’s traveled to "25 Countries, 500,000 Miles," and done "1,000 Broadcasts." What would people think if everyone celebrated five years on a job with this kind of ring-kissing parade?
But then came the clincher: Williams showed up in prime time on the "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" broadcast to accept more praise for his little anniversary. Jane Krakowski, a star of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, laid it on thick:
It won’t be long before we light the towering tree in Rockefeller Center. But first, a towering figure in the world of news, and tonight just happens to be his fifth anniversary an anchor of the NBC Nightly News, congratulations, Mr. Brian Williams.
You could tell Williams knew this intro. (Perhaps he wrote it?) He made faux-humble "I’m just so-so" hand gestures while Krakowski called him a "towering figure," with no shock or surprise registering on his face. Then, like Obama before the Japanese emperor, Krakowski bowed deeper: "And we love watching you every single night, as well as your guest appearances on 30 Rock."
As much as Williams wants to be seen as a regular guy, an average Joe Lunchpail – down to telling Krakowski he’d be assembling bicycles or some such nonsense on Christmas morning, even though his kids are college -age – this kind of display betrays that he has a much more elevated view of himself than the average American does. The average American has someone around them that starts joking about the egotism. But anchorman power, surrounded by corporate toadies like Krakowski, corrupts.