NBC Runs 4 Minute Puff Piece on Ben Affleck; Refuses to Cover Upcoming Midterm Elections, Protests in Hong Kong

On Tuesday night, NBC Nightly News concluded its program by pushing an over four-minute-long fawning segment on Hollywood actor and activist Ben Affleck that included banter between anchor Brian Williams and Affleck on New York and Boston sports teams, gushing over Affleck’s life and “restless mind,” and his disappointment about the United States “nation-building elsewhere” when it should be doing that in places like Detroit.

Williams’s coverage of Affleck came as the show refused to cover the growing protests for greater democratic rule in Hong Kong and any news regarding the midterm elections, which are five weeks away from Tuesday. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

After three separate teases to the “unscripted conversation with Ben Affleck,” Williams set the scene after the final commercial break by saying that Affleck had been promoting his movie so much that “it has almost cost him his voice, but we then learned he still has a lot left in reserve.” 

Before showing portions of the two sharing some small trash talk about the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, both New York NFL teams, and old cars, Williams gushed that “[t]his is what it is really like to talk to or listen to Ben Affleck.”

Next, the NBC Nightly News anchor charted Affleck’s career, personal life, and dislike of the media assigning “labels” to famous individuals (such as himself). Williams then heaped more praise on Affleck: 

Perhaps because his mother was a teacher, the kid came roaring out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a restless mind. He hates the shorthand version of how his career is depicted in the years before and after his early splash and writing Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.”

While Affleck has done a great deal in the U.S. and abroad to promote the need for aid, supplies, and infrastructure in Africa through his East Congo Initiative, he indirectly attacked former President George W. Bush for “nation-building” in Iraq and the country in general for ignoring a blighted city like Detroit:

It's really, frankly, I think, quite disgraceful that we've allowed a great American city that we leaned on in the second World War to produce our tanks, to produce our planes, to help us in the war effort to now be – you know, to lie fallow in the way that it does and, you know, we get invested in nation-building elsewhere. I think sometimes for good or ill, but we have nation-building to do at home for sure. 

Meanwhile, the network (along with ABC) failed to cover the growing protests in Hong Kong as Wednesday will mark the deadline protesters set for the mainland Communist China government to meet the demands for ensuring the people of Hong Kong have a greater say in selecting their elected officials. In addition, public holidays on Wednesday and Thursday are expected to grow the size of the crowd well past the thousands already demonstrating.

Also, NBC joined ABC and CBS in offering no mention of the upcoming midterm elections, which are set to take place five weeks from Tuesday. Recently, a series of promising polls for Republican Senate candidates has put the possibility of a Republican Senate majority well above 50 percent, according to election models from The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The complete transcript of the Affleck segment from September 30's NBC Nightly News is transcribed below.

NBC Nightly News
September 30, 2014
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And our unscripted conversation with Ben Affleck on his latest film role and his role at home as husband, father and devoted fan of all Boston sports teams.

(....)

7:11 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

WILLIAMS: And later, he is talking about one of the biggest movie releases of the year, plus family and career, the paparazzi and a little sports with Ben Affleck.

(....)

7:21 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

WILLIAMS: When we come back, our conversation with Ben Affleck on his provocative new movie and a lot more from there.

(....)

7:24 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Earlier this week in this room, in fact, we talked with a visiting star. Ben Affleck is promoting his new film "Gone Girl." He's been talking about it so much, as you'll hear, it has almost cost him his voice, but we then learned he still has a lot left in reserve. This is what it is really like to talk to or listen to Ben Affleck. 

AFFLECK: One of us has the best quarterback in football and the other has a sort of mishmash. 

WILLIAMS: Did you miss the victory last week? 

AFFLECK: There's guys that the Red Sox fans hate hate. 

WILLIAMS: The only problem with our new stadium out in the Bronx is we are running out of room on the exterior for the banners. 

AFFLECK: The problem is that, with those cars in the '60s, were the best cars ever, but occasionally, the battery dies and then you find yourself like, “do you have cables?”

WILLIAMS: Two words: Trickle charger. 

AFFLECK: He doesn't understand Tom Brady's genius entirely in the way I do. 

WILLIAMS: Would we call this year so far genius though? 

AFFLECK: You know what, I like the New Jersey Giants and I like the New Jersey Jets and I look forward to going to Jersey to see them play. 

WILLIAMS: [TO AFFLECK] That’s nice. [VOICE OVER] Perhaps because the star of "Gone Girl" then noticed we'd gone to great lengths to put the title in our great big screen, Ben Affleck then started talking about the movie and the central question involving his central character: Is he a good guy or bad? Did he kill his wife or not? It includes some not subtle send-ups and takedowns of real life media figures and a media coverage plot line that Ben says he has lived himself. 

AFFLECK: It moves so fast. The internet demands so much and what's the one-liner on this guy? And it's what the last person wrote and the last person wrote and so, once you get these kind of labels put under your name, they're hard to get them off. 

WILLIAMS: Perhaps because his mother was a teacher, the kid came roaring out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a restless mind. He hates the shorthand version of how his career is depicted in the years before and after his early splash and writing Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.” Those years included “Dazed and Confused,” and he might have been a little bit of both as he went on to survive the “Gigli” and “Jersey Girl” era. As the years went by, he started to exert command and control over more films. He was sharp as one of the company men. He then wrote and produced and directed and starred in the very gritty, very Boston gem called “The Town.” Then came his signature piece “Argo.” Golden Globe for best director. Academy Award for best picture, and his status in Hollywood was cemented. 

AFFLECK: I'm responsible. I'm taking them through. 

WILLIAMS: His life was cemented at home as well. In “Gone Girl,” which like the book, contains a lot of plot twists, he plays a twisted guy. He says it helped to go home at night to a fellow veteran of the craft, his wife Jennifer garner. 

AFFLECK: It's good to be married to someone who is an actor as well, cause it's like swimming in the muck every day and it's hard to wash off when you get home sometimes. 

WILLIAMS: The couple have three beautiful children, not shown here out of courtesy. The afflecks are stalked each day of their lives by Paparazzi. Rides to school, to karate, for ice cream. The parents realize they made a bargain to be in the public eye, but they have fought for legislation in California to keep their kids out of the picture. 

AFFLECK: There's now a law on the books that you can't kind of stalk children. You would think that law already exists, but it's as such it makes it more difficult to take pictures the of people's children and there are media outlets who have now agreed, “Hey we're not going to run those pictures. You’re right, it’s tasteless.”

WILLIAMS: Back on the set, these days he's filming the new Batman on location in Detroit. Sadly, the city was chosen in large part because so much of the former architectural marvels there now have that post-apocalyptic, Batman look, which he sees as an opportunity to point out where we've been and where we might be headed as a country. 

AFFLECK: It's really, frankly, I think, quite disgraceful that we've allowed a great American city that we leaned on in the second World War to produce our tanks, to produce our planes, to help us in the war effort to now be – you know, to lie fallow in the way that it does and, you know, we get invested in nation-building elsewhere. I think sometimes for good or ill, but we have nation-building to do at home for sure. 

WILLIAMS: The 42-year-old actor says what makes him feel best these days is philanthropy, especially his efforts in Africa, the Eastern Congo initiative where he's been personally and financially involved for years. 

2014 Congressional China NBC NBC Nightly News Ben Affleck Brian Williams
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