Brian Williams’s Mea Culpa

Just a few days ago I posted a piece titled “Mea Culpas.” I wrote the piece because we live in an apology culture –  a culture in which saying I’m sorry is presumed sufficient atonement.

Last night NBC anchor Brian Williams did in fact apologize for having misstated the facts. But he did not admit to what has to be called by its rightful name. He did not admit to telling an out and out lie. Instead he confessed to a blunder, an error, a mistake ostensibly innocently made.

But no way in hell would any rational, reasonable person confuse being shot down in a helicopter. Either you were shot down or you were not shot down. There is simply  no margin for memory error in an incident as traumatic as this one.

If Brian Williams were just another media hothead, it would be one thing. But he is not. He is the leading light of one of the three major networks, the anchor of the NBC evening news. What this means is that Williams arguably holds what is still the single most important post in American television. It pains me to say this, for he is obviously a major media talent, and he is to all appearances eminently likable. But for Brian Williams to remain in place after he has been outed as a serial liar would be by every measure wrong. The stock and trade of a network anchor is trust. Failing that, there is nothing.

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