Brian Williams: Natural Result of a Pathological NBC Culture

So now another Brian Williams story surfaces.  The lying and exaggerating? We're talking pathological -- and the pathology of an entire network’s culture.

This time NBC anchor Williams is under fire -- not of the RPG variety -- but for telling a fantasy tale about his time covering Hurricane Katrina.  Said the NBC anchor in 2006:

 “When you look out of your hotel window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country,”

And on another occasion post-Katrina he said this in a talk with NBC’s Tom Brokaw:

“My week, two weeks there was not helped by the fact that I accidentally ingested some of the floodwater. I became very sick with dysentery, our hotel was overrun with gangs, I was rescued in the stairwell of a five-star hotel in New Orleans by a young police officer. We are friends to this day. And uh, it just was uh, I look back at total agony.”

The problem? Reports The New Orleans Advocate:

“But the French Quarter, the original high ground of New Orleans, was not impacted by the floodwaters that overwhelmed the vast majority of the city.”

Later, they reported that perhaps Williams could see it from his hotel room -- at the Ritz-Carlton. (Those network anchors know how to live like the little people.) And of the dysentery story? The Advocate reports this:

Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former city health director who manned an EMS trailer that was set up in the 900 block of Dumaine Street, a block from his house in the French Quarter, said he was a fan of Williams but dubious of his claims.

“We were never wet. It was never wet,” he remarked of the conditions in the city’s most historic neighborhood.
As for dysentery, “I saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises and such, but I don’t recall a single, solitary case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward,” Lutz said.

As for Williams saying he accidentally drank floodwaters, Lutz added, “I don’t know anybody that’s tried that to see, but my dogs drank it, and they didn’t have any problems.”

Added to this combustible mix of Williams falsehoods on Iraq and Katrina is his apology for the Iraq fiction. Headlined The New York Times:

           With an Apology, Brian Williams Digs Himself Deeper in Copter Tale

The Times story began this way:

For years, Brian Williams had been telling a story that wasn’t true. On Wednesday night, he took to his anchor chair on “NBC Nightly News” to apologize for misleading the public.

On Thursday, his real problems started.

A host of military veterans and pundits came forward on television and social media, challenging Mr. Williams’s assertion that he had simply made a mistake when he spoke, on several occasions, about having been in a United States military helicopter forced down by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003. Some went so far as to call for his resignation.

In his apology, Mr. Williams said that he had been on a different helicopter, behind the one that had sustained fire, and that he had inadvertently “conflated” the two. The explanation earned him not only widespread criticism on radio and TV talk shows, but widespread ridicule on Twitter, under the hashtag “#BrianWilliamsMisremembers.”

So. What we now have here are not one incident, not two incidents but three incidents in which the NBC anchor is being directly accused of looking his audience of the moment straight in the eye and lying.

Now we get this story that appeared in the New York Post.  Blaring the news that NBC anchorman emeritus Tom Brokaw wants his protege Williams fired, a story Brokaw has hastily denied the story, sort of, to The Huffington Post. "I have neither demanded nor suggested Brian be fired. His future is up to Brian and NBC News executives." Not exactly a ringing defense.

What has happened at NBC News?  Answer? Nothing that hasn’t been happening in slow motion for years.

Back there in the mists of January -- last month -- I wrote a story in this space about a group called the Conservative War Chest launching a major effort to call attention to what the group called the“corruption of American journalism” - with a specific and detailed focus on NBC and its Comcast owners. Released weeks before these latest stories about anchor Williams hit the fan the 65-page report provided chapter and verse about the culture of NBC and its cable sibling MSNBC. Brian Williams was cited by name, with example after example of what the group saw as extremely biased presentation of news stories. The group made the case that NBC was in such serious shape it needed to be cleaned out and restored to journalistic health with a serious, professional journalist at its head. Barely three weeks later, out pops these stories about Williams conduct in Iraq, his “apology” and his fanciful re-telling of Hurricane Katrina, with a body floating by his hotel in the un-flooded French Quarter.

Back in 1986 the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral -- the umpteenth space shuttle to do so. Alas, this time the Challenger exploded in mid-air, horrifying the watching nation. President Reagan quickly appointed a commission headed by former Secretary of State William Rogers to investigate and find out what happened. The verdict was stunning. Among other things the commission discovered what it called a flawed “organizational culture”  and decision making process at NASA had ultimately resulted in the use of a sealing “O-ring” that was not designed for cold weather use. The January launching, in spite of being in sunny Florida, had actually been set for a day in which a cold snap engulfed the area. The O-ring, said the commission, wasn’t designed for use below 40 degrees - and it was 18 degrees that morning. A House investigation added that “the fundamental problem was poor technical decision-making over a period of several years by top NASA and contractor personnel, who failed to act decisively to solve the increasingly serious anomalies in the Solid Rocket Booster joints.”

In other words? Under the circumstances of its long time “organizational culture”, decision making process and “poor decision making over a period  of several years” the explosion of a space shuttle was an eventual certainty. Thus, out of the seeming blue that cold January morning the inevitable finally arrived.

What does this have to do with Brian Williams and NBC? Like the Challenger explosion, given the culture of NBC -- the train wreck that is MSNBC, the crassly political decision to cater to the Obama White House by hiring Al Sharpton for his own TV show, the unending stream of left-wing vitriol, racism and bias that has caused the Conservative War Chest to say the network is now nothing more than a far-left Super PAC -- all of this has created a culture of poor decision making at NBC. Now, Brian Williams’s career, a thorough-going product of this NBC culture,  is exploding like a journalistic version of the Challenger.

Not to be forgotten is that this is the same network that in 1993 copped to faking a fiery crash of a General Motors truck. The New York Times began that story this way: “In an extraordinary public confession, NBC acknowledged last night that it had erred in broadcasting a report that purported to show a General Motors truck bursting into flame as a result of a collision.”

From that moment until today NBC has been on one very long, very slow motion slide to this moment. No small player in all this has been the role of “narrative journalism” -- the drive to substitute the telling of the news with altering the presentation of the news to fit the liberal agenda. Katrina was Bush’s fault. Obama is a hero. Brian Williams’s helicopter was hit by an RPG. GM trucks explode.

While liberals in the media have always been present, with the advent of Rush Limbaugh, talk radio, Fox News and the Internet the absolute monopoly once held by liberals in the media has been destroyed, gone for good. The reaction has been to drive the liberals to ever increasing fury, absolutely determined to hold to their liberal narratives in the media until hell freezes over or they go down with the ship. (See: Dan Rather.)

Faced with the evidence that its ardent leftism was killing Newsweek, the people who ran the magazine stubbornly preferred to run the magazine into the ground.  So too now with the non-existent ratings of MSNBC. Correct the NBC culture? Clean it out?  Run a straight news network? Nah. Over at The Washington Post this story was run blaming the whole Williams episode on - really, no kidding - his neurons. Talk about a desperate need to protect the tribe.

So now Brian Williams’s career -- not to mention the credibility of his network -- is in free fall because of NBC’s culture of pathology. Can anyone be surprised?

No.

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