After breaking the news that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will be suspended indefinitely for six months without pay, Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter joined CNN’s AC360 to discuss the story with the Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie and expressed doubt that “anyone in the country” believes that Williams “deserves a second chance” as NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke did in backing him.
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In a memo made public shortly after the announcement, Burke emphasized that Williams “deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him” after the anchor had “shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone’s trust.”
Guthrie expressed confusion at the idea of a suspension, wondering why NBC didn’t make this decision last week and whether Williams will be able to simply “pop up and return or he'll just be fired and you just prolong everything” after having him serve time “in the penalty box.”
Providing more on the story, Stelter reported that NBC’s investigation of Williams will still continue and that Burke “met with Brian this morning at his apartment on the Upper West Side on Central Park West” and expressed support for him that Stelter immediately questioned if anyone else feels as Burke does: “I don't know if anyone in the country is going to believe that.”
Guthrie later chimed in by bringing up the how Williams’s colleagues at NBC News are feeling about the situation: “[P]eople inside NBC News are upset. It's like, you're either in or you're out. Does keeping him around in the suspended animations continue to damage the credibility of the news division? I think that's what a lot of people feel inside NBC News.”
Towards the end of the six-minute discussion, host Anderson Cooper also exposed the lack of credibility Williams now has when it comes any future interviews with politicians:
How do you, in a future interview, if you’re confronting a politician about a misstatement or a lie or something that’s factually incorrect, how do you do that with that person not coming back and saying, who are you to talk to me about this?
Agreeing with Cooper’s assessment, Guthrie proscribed it to be “the heart of this issue and that's why people at NBC News who do take this very seriously are so upset.”
Giving his final thoughts, Stelter closed by revealing what NBC source told him earlier in the day: “I had a person at NBC say to me, today, I can never trust him again. Now, we all have short-term memories, but I wonder how much of that is real and lasting. People aren’t going to be able to trust him.”
The relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on February 10 can be found below.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360
February 10, 2015
8:14 p.m. Eastern
BRIAN STELTER: Marisa reported earlier today that the suspension was likely but six months, honestly, shocks me. Then again, I don’t know what else NBC could have done.
ANDERSON COOPER: Shocks you because it’s long?
STELTER: Because of how long it is and because people automatically are going to assume that he'll never come back. That six months is such a long period of time that this will become permanent with Lester Holt in the job but, I have to say, other than six months, what else could have NBC done? The talk in the hallways of the network was that he was never going to come back at all, so at least this gives him the possibility or at least makes people think there’s a possibility.
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’S MARISA GUTHRIE: What? He’ll pop up and return or he'll just be fired and you just prolong everything. I mean, that's the thing. You're in the penalty box for six months.
COOPER: Do you think that would that prolong it if six months from now, once he’s been out of the limelight and out of the daily headlines?
GUTHRIE: Does he come back and if he comes back, doesn’t it dredge everything up again? And also, so they announced, why didn't they announce this last week and so they have this internal investigation going on.
STELTER: Which is still going on, not done yet. They're still investigating, they say, yet they're still doing this. Steve Burke, the head of NBC Universal, met with Brian this morning at his apartment on the Upper West Side on Central Park West and said in the statement tonight “he deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.” I don't know if anyone in the country is going to believe that.
GUTHRIE: And I don't think, I mean, people inside NBC News are upset. It's like, you're either in or you're out. Does keeping him around in the suspended animations continue to damage the credibility of the news division? I think that's what a lot of people feel inside NBC News.
COOPER: It is a remarkable just stunning turn of events when you consider his career, the power he had within NBC, the presence he had on television on a nightly basis that within the space of five days, I wonder how much of this would have been different had he made a different statement on the NBC Nightly News initially and then not gone out to a Ranger game with Tom Hanks immediately after making –
GUTHRIE: I think it would have been a lot different. If he made out immediately and said, I was wrong, I did something I shouldn't have, I'm very sorry and they could have immediately announced the suspension of, you know, a few weeks, a month, something. If he had made a transparent full-throated apology immediately I think it would have been a lot different.
STELTER: I wonder if this is media’s version it's not the crime, it's the cover-up, it's the way it's handled immediately by the people involved, that's how it feels in some ways, but also have to say if he hadn't tried to be so public about what he was doing, he was celebrating a veteran, a wonderful thing to do, but made it about himself on his broadcast and said hit by a chopper an RPG, so he made it about himself and I think that probably – well, clearly, worsened the situation for him.
COOPER: And then the revelations about other stories coming out, other things he had said, you know, comments about seeing a body floating down outside of the Ritz Carlton Hotel –
STELTER: Which has been disputed.
COOPER: – which has been widely disputed – just the sheer, there wasn't enough water to even allow that according to the hotel manager, talked to a police officer in New Orleans today who was stationed on Canal Street saying there's no there was a body floating down Canal Street.
STELTER: That's true, lots of people tell tall tales but we've got to hold journalists to a different standard. I like this, Anderson, and probably said it to you before, we’ve talked about how social media can hold journalists accountable, well that's also the theoretical but this is a very practical real life example because it was a soldier on Facebook who spoke up when they heard Brian Williams misspeak.
COOPER: Also, then, how do you, in a future interview, if you’re confronting a politician about a misstatement or a lie or something that’s factually incorrect, how do you do that with that person not coming back and saying, who are you to talk to me about this?
GUTHRIE: That's the heart of this issue and that's why people at NBC News who do take this very seriously are so upset.
STELTER: I had a person at NBC say to me, today, I can never trust him again. Now, we all have short-term memories, but I wonder how much of that is real and lasting. People aren’t going to be able to trust him.
COOPER: I mean, regardless of one thing should have happened to him, I just feel for the guy for the drastic turn of events his life has suddenly taken and for his family, everybody involved. Just horrifically sad.