Amidst Orlando, Brian Williams Jokes to Guest About Searching for GOP ‘With a Flashlight’

While he apologized roughly six minutes later, MSNBC breaking news anchor and disgraced ex-NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams jokingly asked former Republican Senator Mel Martinez of Florida during an interview about the Orlando terror attack if he could find his party in the 2016 election “with a flashlight.”

Near the end of the segment, Williams smirked as he wondered aloud: “Senator, I'm listening to your politics and wondering what branch of the Republican Party you’re in these days and can you find it with a flashlight?”

Martinez shot back almost instantly in telling him “my goodness” and that he “was hoping we weren't going to talk about that tonight.”

Williams pressed him to answer and so Martinez discussed how he takes heart in the way that the American people come together across the political spectrum such as stand in line to donate blood in what’s a horrifying event.

The situation grew even more awkward when Williams flubbed the state that Martinez represented when he thanked his guest for coming on: “Well, that's a great answer and you’re absolutely right. Former Senator Mel Martinez, thank you so much for joining us from California — from Florida and as we have been saying, our condolences to everybody down there.”

NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O’Donnell followed Martinez and seemed to agree with Martinez’s admonishment of Williams: “Well, I certainly appreciate Senator Martinez, his desire to demure from the politics, but you and I will dive right in for a moment, Brian.”

Before going to commercial break, Williams solemnly stared directly into the camera to offer this apology:

As we said and with apologies with the look at the inevitable politics of even a national tragedy given that we are in a political season, but the words right below us there, “deadliest mass shooting in American history.” That is the conversation tonight. That's the story we're covering tonight. The tragedy we all woke up to this morning. Our coverage will continue after a break.  

The relevant portions of the transcript from the 9:00 p.m. Eastern hour of MSNBC’s Orlando coverage on June 12 can be found below.

MSNBC Live
June 12, 2016
9:37 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Senator, I'm listening to your politics and wondering what branch of the Republican Party you’re in these days and can you find it with a flashlight? 

FORMER REPUBLICAN SENATOR MEL MARTINEZ (Fl.): My goodness, Brian, I was hoping we weren't going to talk about that tonight. That's a difficult one for me. 

WILLIAMS: Sorry. I have to.

MARTINEZ: I hear you. Look, the fact is that, you know, we have a great country. I am an immigrant of this nation and I live in love of this land and what it stands for. Days like today just break your heart. We can never forget the greatness of this nation and the ability of people to come together. When you see 600 people standing in line to donate blood when the call went out that it was needed, that's the America that I love and regardless of the R’s and D’s, that's the America I hope we all pull for and will prevail out of these horrible events. 

WILLIAMS: Well, that's a great answer and you’re absolutely right. Former Senator Mel Martinez, thank you so much for joining us from California — from Florida and as we have been saying, our condolences to everybody down there. It's an awfully helpless feeling watching this from a distance as we have been. Speaking of, the inevitable political reaction to this. Kelly O'Donnell in our newsroom in Washington with that. Kelly? 

KELLY O’DONNELL: Well, I certainly appreciate Senator Martinez, his desire to demure from the politics, but you and I will dive right in for a moment, Brian.

(....)

9:43 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: As we said and with apologies with the look at the inevitable politics of even a national tragedy given that we are in a political season, but the words right below us there, “deadliest mass shooting in American history.” That is the conversation tonight. That's the story we're covering tonight. The tragedy we all woke up to this morning. Our coverage will continue after a break.  

Tell the Truth 2016 NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Events Orlando Night Club Terror Attack Media Bias Debate Military War on Terrorism Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans MSNBC MSNBC Live Other MSNBC Video Government & Press Brian Williams Kelly O'Donnell Mel Martinez
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