MSNBC breaking news host and ex-NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was allowed out on MSNBC’s airwaves early Friday afternoon to discuss President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima so he could resurrect a taped report that aired in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the nuclear bomb’s dropping on the Japanese city.
In the course of discussing the event afterward, though, Williams threw some shade in the direction of the U.S. military and then-President Harry Truman by complaining that “we’re the only nation to have used them in anger” against the horrifying Axis Powers member.
Leading up to that, Mitchell pointed out that the current President has shown an interest in nuclear disarmament since he took office but lamented has made little progress since the most recent conference in D.C. “because Vladimir Putin — the other great nuclear power and the other curb on proliferation after the Cold War was the Soviet Union wasn’t present, was boycotting because of other tensions, tensions over Ukraine.”
NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss compared the President’s Hiroshima speech to that of “John Kennedy at the American University — so close to where we are now in 1963 and that was given with the same motive which was that was a time when talks about a test-ban treaty had been installed.”
Asked by Mitchell to comment on the push by then-Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) to curb the use of nuclear material, Williams initially praised them, but then took a swipe at the entire reason that Truman had the bombs dropped (which was to end the war):
It is and that is still the threat that people worry about that this material will fall into the wrong hands. If people have found the U.S. to be preachy in the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the use of weapons, it’s because we’re the only nation to have used them in anger. Sometimes, I am amazed that the world has been without these weapons all the years since, but it is a point of, a great pride by the people who have seen to it.
Of course, Williams has a past on this issue (as he does on most things — including lying) going back to 2005 when, in addition to the taped piece, he pressed Enola Gay pilot Dutch Van Kirk on whether or not he has “remorse for what happened” and how he “deal[s] with” the bomb’s dropping psychologically.
The relevant portion of the transcript from MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on May 27 can be found below.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports
May 27, 2016
12:34 p.m. Eastern
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, Andrea, a couple of points here, that was compiled by our friends superb producer named Andy Franklin who has a kind of photo graphic memory of all our vast archives. Number two, two things that people forget, Harry Truman, becomes the FDR's Vice President then I’m going to be quiet and let the more learned man talk about this. He's not told that this project is under way until the death of FDR who, you know, children of 12 and 13 thought we had one president for life in this country. He had been in office for so long. The other thing people forget is not only was this a titanic struggle for control of the world, atomic bombs was proceeded months of fire bombings by the American of Japanese cities. The death toll estimates begin at 300,000, go to a million and beyond. Cities like Oshaka and Nagoia, Tokyo, parts of those had been leveled, so that was — the bomb a month of warfare from the air.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And Michael, picking up of what Brian was saying. The decision made when Harry Truman had not been briefed. We talk now about how presidential nominees are going to be briefed by General Clapper after they are nominated. The fact that this secret was not known by the Vice President of the United States is extraordinary.
MICHAEL BECHLOSS: Well, as Brian was saying so well, I felt like just saying I agree with Brian and now I will shut up. Yeah, that's exactly right because when Truman came in, he had no idea that there was this weapon that was going to be soon available to end this war, she was told quickly, but, what was more important than that was that Roosevelt, you know, not only didn’t him about the bomb but didn't tell him, you know, how to use it and when it might be used and what the strategies should be for ending World War II and the result was that Truman had to spend nights or even weeks reading with this green eye shade late at night reading the documents of the Yalta Conference and Roosevelt's letters trying to figure out what the great man might have done. As it turns out, Truman’s judgement was very good and equal of Roosevelt’s.
WILLIAMS: We have American troops committed over seas now and we can’t repeat often enough. Even though we are coming out of two wars, this seems like a gentler time in our history for a lot of reasons. Even thinks like Japanese internment camps were defended by liberal lions like Earl Warren because, as he always said, “you have to understand the times.” It’s like some American actions right after 9/11. You had to understand what it felt like back then.
MITCHELL: And Michael, right now today we saw the President and I really felt in his speech an inflection of regret. The first summit he hosted was a nuclear non-proliferation summit in Washington DC. That was his initiatives.
BECHLOSS: Right, I remember.
MITCHELL: The most recent one of a couple of months ago was a failure because Vladimir Putin — the other great nuclear power and the other curb on proliferation after the Cold War was the soviet union wasn’t present, was boycotting because of other tensions, tensions over Ukraine.
BECHLOSS: That’s exactly right and you know, that speech he gave this morning which I thought was quite eloquent, reminded me very much of the speech with John Kennedy at the American University — so close to where we are now in 1963 and that was given with the same motive which was that was a time when talks about a test-ban treaty had been installed and Kennedy thought it may move the Soviets off the dime by for the first time in American — the President acknowledged the Soviet suffering, the number of Soviets who had died in World War II and brought victory. That had an enormous impact not only on Nikita Khrushchev but on Soviet citizens all across the country had a big effect.
MITCHELL: And Brian, just a word to two men that you knew very well, Dick Lugar and Sam Nunn, the fact that they had this nuclear threat initiative and that they controlled through a bipartisan act of Congress, controlled the spread of nuclear materials, non-state actors and materials even in this age of terror, all these decades after the end of the Cold War is just remarkable and I don't think they get enough credit for it.
WILLIAMS: It is and that is still the threat that people worry about that this material will fall into the wrong hands. If people have found the U.S. to be preachy in the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the use of weapons, it’s because we’re the only nation to have used them in anger. Sometimes, I am amazed that the world has been without these weapons all the years since, but it is a point of, a great pride by the people who have seen to it.
MITCHELL: Well, and our pride in you for helping us understanding the context better to you and Michael Beschloss. Thank you and Andy Franklin our superb producer.