Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quick Hits: Volume CVII

- The scrutiny over NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' 10+ years of fabricating a story about his experience covering the Iraq invasion hasn't gone away. It has only been one full week since Williams admitted he indeed was not on a helicopter that was hit by a grenade yet social media is still blowing up in conversation over this topic.

As such, NBCUniversal was left with little recourse.

From: "Deborah Turness (NBCUniversal)"
Date: Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 4:48 PM -0800
Subject: Brian Williams
To: "@NBC Uni NBC News All"


We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months. The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately. We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News.

Our review, which is being led by Richard Esposito working closely with NBCUniversal General Counsel Kim Harris, is ongoing, but I think it is important to take you through our thought process in coming to this decision.

While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.

Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.

As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.

This has been a difficult time. But NBC News is bigger than this moment. You work so hard and dedicate yourselves each and every day to the important work of bringing trusted, credible news to our audience. Because of you, your loyalty, your dedication, NBC News is an organization we can – and should - all be proud of. We will get through this together.

Steve Burke asked me to share the following message.

“This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts. By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate. Brian’s life’s work is delivering the news. I know Brian loves his country, NBC News and his colleagues. He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him. Brian has shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone’s trust.”


Does anybody find it odd that Williams wasn't just fired? Personally, I'm not surprised he wasn't canned. Why? Speculation abounded that NBC execs had known for quite some time that Williams had a tendency to exaggerate his biography. So firing Williams for something they allegedly enabled (which likely aided NBC Nightly News's solid ratings) probably felt somewhat unethical to them (assuming the suits are capable of feeling any shame). I still find it hard to believe that Williams ever appears on NBC News again. Time will tell.

- Speaking of fake news......

Jon Stewart, whose wit defined "The Daily Show" for more than 15 years, will sign off the iconic Comedy Central program later this year, the cable channel said on Tuesday.

Stewart is expected to speak about his decision to step down on Tuesday night's program, which he is taping on Tuesday evening.

"Tonight! For once, you wanna stay through the interview," the official Twitter feed of the program said shortly after the channel confirmed the news.

In a farewell statement, Michelle Ganeless, the president of the channel, called Stewart "a comic genius, generous with his time and talent," and said the host "will always be a part of the Comedy Central family."

I never really got in to The Daily Show, mostly because Stewart's act became so tedious and predictable. He was revered by his lefty fans for his willingness to speak "truth to power" but would recoil when his assertions were challenged, thus taking cover under the guise of his just being an entertainer. The sad fact is a lot of 20-somethings relied on Stewart for hard news and then ate up his snarky follow-up commentary, subsequently regurgitating it as their own insights.

Yes, the fawning over Stewart was quite nauseating, evidenced by some of the reaction to his departure. However, nothing quite reached the utter absurdity on display in this tweet:

 Huh. Personally, I saw Stewart as little more than a male Joy Behar.

- In the nearly four years I've been hosting my weekly talk radio show, I have to say that Rich Weinstein is easily among the top five most fascinating guests I've had the privilege of interviewing. Rich is the guy who discovered the YouTube videos of MIT professor (and Obamacare architect) Jonathan Gruber being brutally honest about using deceptive tactics to make Obamacare appear palatable to the public.

Anyhow, Rich was on the program this past Sunday, so the podcast of our discussion is now available for your listening pleasure.

Aside from the final segment where we commiserated over our respective NBA clubs (Rich is a Philadelphia 76ers fan; myself a Timberwolves enthusiast), the entire hour is a must listen (and not because of anything I had to offer).


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