THE FOG OF BRIAN’S VARIOUS SONGS: Why was he in Iraq at all?


Part 3—Brian’s ugliest song:
Early this morning, we were struck by a comment to a piece at Salon.

Brian Williams had been suspended—without pay!—by NBC News. A commenter offered these thoughts:
COMMENTER AT SALON (2/11/15): I consider myself to be a reasonably well-informed, news-knowledgeable person, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have watched even part of an evening network news broadcast this century. And I am squarely in the middle of their 55+ target audience demographic. I don't know of anyone else who watches these news programs either. They might as well be 3 AM infomercials. Brian Williams seems like a decent guy, and I've enjoyed watching him in other venues. But Edward R. Murrow or I.F. Stone he ain't. Still, getting paid $10 million a year to look good in a suit and read the news should also buy at least a respectable level of trustworthiness.
Is Brian Williams “a decent guy?” We have no idea.

To us, Williams seems somewhat weirdly inclined to make up extremely strange stories. These stories aren’t simply inaccurate, embellished or self-promoting. His various tales of danger and suffering seem a bit strange to us.

To us, Williams also seems like a highly ambitious person, perhaps a bit self-absorbed. Along those lines, we were struck by one part of a front-page report in today’s New York Times.

This passage comes from our hard-copy Times, Emily Steel reporting:
STEEL (2/11/15): [Williams’] affinity for entertainment may have played a part in his current troubles. About five years ago, as NBC was contemplating who would eventually replace Jay Leno as host of “The Tonight Show,” a surprise candidate raised his hand: Brian Williams.

Mr. Williams told top NBC executives that he was keen to pursue his ambitions in entertainment and comedy. They called the idea ridiculous, telling him that he was a journalist, not a comedian, and to stick to the news department, according to two industry executives with knowledge of the discussions.
Did Williams actually want to replace Jay Leno? The claim is now being widely reported. We don’t know if it’s accurate.

That said, the humor in the Steel report comes in the highlighted passage. Top execs were forced to tell Williams that he is a journalist!

Is Brian Williams a decent guy? And has he really been a journalist? The answer to that second question isn’t entirely clear.

It’s rather clear from Williams’ history that he always sought the golden ring—the vast fame and enormous wealth that come to those who reach the very top of TV’s corporate pig-pile.

He did become enormously wealthy, despite his carefully-crafted attempts to make consumers think of him as a Nascar-loving former fireman who does his shopping at Target.

(For links to past work on these story-lines, see below.)

These endless stories have sometimes seemed to take Williams to the edge. His tales about his humble ways have sometimes seemed to involve the kinds of dissembling found in his tales about Iraq and Katrina.

Williams has always told us tales about his vast everydayness. In the process, he got enormously wealthy. This aspect of his career will go almost wholly undiscussed as other vastly overpaid pundits pretend to discuss what's occurred.

Is Brian Williams “a decent guy?” In his various tales about shopping at Costco, Williams has worked hard, for many years, to give us rubes that impression.

At Salon, one commenter has bought this impression, even though he doesn’t think much of Williams’ journalism. We’d advise him to be more careful when he makes such judgments.

We don’t really believe in “bad people” around here. But if we did, we’d be very angry with the big handsome multimillionaire who went on the air, back in the day, and helped us end up in Iraq.

Let’s be clear! In 1999 and 2000, Williams didn’t play a leading role in sending George Bush to the White House. From 2001 through 2003, he didn’t play a leading role in getting us into Iraq.

During those years, Williams wasn’t especially influential. Tom Brokaw still sat in NBC’s anchor chair. Williams, the anchor-in-waiting, was forced to bide his time on a little-watched nightly cable show, The News with Brian Williams.

People didn’t watch that show much. The program wasn’t influential. (By way of contrast, the Hardball of that era was.)

That said, Williams was on the air each night, awaiting that last big score. To the commenter at Salon who sees him as “a decent guy,” we want to recall what that other commenter said, the one who responded to Maureen Dowd’s Sunday column.

This is what that reader said as she recalled Williams’ work from that era. In 2002, she reached a very negative judgment about this decent guy:
COMMENTER FROM NEW YORK (2/8/15): I used to watch The News with Brian Williams which was broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC at 9 PM Monday-Friday before he got his Nightly News gig. I was a working parent and that was the only time I could catch up on the news.

I stopped watching during the run up to the war in Iraq. Al Gore had given a speech that day against a US invasion in Iraq. In his run up to his lede on the speech, Williams acted like Gore was an insignificant politician who had the gall to disagree with the Bush/Cheney propaganda machine's meme that the US needed to rush to war with Iraq. He wondered aloud what Rush Limbaugh would think of Gore's overreach. As far as Williams was concerned, Limbaugh was the statesman and Gore was the nut job. It was instantly clear to me Williams was the worst kind of journalist, one who embraced popular opinion, not a search for the truth.

I never watched that show again. I've never watched NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, either. I would be happy to see him go.
In yesterday's report, we showed you what Williams actually said on that memorable night. Early and often, he asked if Gore’s speech the previous day had been “un-American.”

He fawned all over “our friend, Rush Limbaugh,” much as that commenter said. But then, if memory serves, this decent guy was fawning to Limbaugh quite a bit during that era.

We don’t believe in bad people here. But we wouldn’t stampede off to call Williams a decent guy.

Why do we say that? Let us challenge Dowd’s commenter on one important point.

Dowd’s commenter saw Williams fawning to Rush that night. She saw him dropping his “un-American” bomb, although she may not recall that.

She drew a conclusion about Williams’ motive. We’ll guess that she might have been wrong.

As Dowd’s commenter watched Williams that night, she thought she was watching “the worst kind of journalist, one who embraced popular opinion, not a search for the truth.”

She thought that explained why Brian was fawning to Rush. Let us suggest the possibility that this assumption was wrong.

If Williams had a motive that night—if he wasn’t simply doing his best—we’ll suggest that he may not have been chasing “public opinion.” We’ll suggest he was pushing the company line, a line that had clearly come into existence at NBC News and its cable arms during the Jack Welch years.

By 2002, Welch was no longer the corporate owner of NBC News. But Williams was still pushing that same old line.

Some part of this corporate line may have come from marketing concerns—from NBC's desire to attract conservative viewers. This corporate line may also have stemmed from Welch’s conservative politics.

But whatever the source of the corporate line, the line was quite clear at NBC News during the twenty months of Campaign 2000, when Welch’s Lost Boys worked very hard to send George Bush to the White House.

Williams played those games during Campaign 2000, when few people were watching his program. To appearances, he continued to push the company line this night in 2002 as he dropped his “un-American” bombs on Gore and pandered hard to “our friend, Rush Limbaugh.”

Is Brian Williams “a decent guy?” It’s easy to get that impression, in part because he has worked very hard to spread that impression around.

He may well be a decent guy in his personal dealings. We have no way to judge.

But Williams got in trouble last week because of self-glorying claims about an experience in Iraq. But how did we get to Iraq in the first place? Why was he even there?

In part, Brian Williams was in Iraq because chasers of Mammon had pimped the corporate line, exactly at this “decent guy” did on the night in question. Exactly as he and his NBC colleagues had done during the twenty-month War Against Gore.

What are Williams’ personal politics? We have no idea.

Who did he vote for in recent elections? Forced to guess, we’d guess he voted for Bush in 2000, for Obama in 2008.

We doubt that Williams is a consistent “conservative.” But he played one on TV in the Welch years, then in the run to Iraq.

After Iraq became a debacle, upper-end press corps politics began switching back on the war. Before that, Williams made the only smart play for a man who was still seeking those multimillions.

In the end, Brian got those multimillions. He never bought a home on Nantucket, the better to commune with Welch from. But in 2005, this report about Manhattan cribbage appeared at

Brian’s new boss had bought a fine crib. Williams himself was already present, along with—who else?—Jack Welch!
FORBES (9/9/05): The CEO of General Electric has purchased a luxurious new condo in midtown Manhattan, has learned.

According to public records, Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive and chairman of the company, and his wife, Andrea, this summer bought an apartment in the newly constructed One Beacon Court. The final price? Just over $4 million.

The glass-and-steel high-rise is situated on East 58th St., between Lexington and Third avenues, above the Bloomberg Tower. For the high price, Immelt has bought some high-profile neighbors–including some he might know from the office. Jack Welch, former chief executive of GE, paid about $6.4 million for his Beacon Court spread, just a few floors above Immelt’s. Brian Williams, news anchor at General Electric-owned NBC, also lives in the building.


Immelt, 49, does have a house in wealthy New Canaan, Conn., not too far from GE headquarters in Fairfield. And he can certainly afford both–in 2004 his bonus came to $5.3 million, on top of his $3 million salary.
Immelt could afford both cribs? Having fawned to his friend Rush Limbaugh, Williams was now bringing in two times Immelt’s haul!

He owned a house in wealthy New Canaan too, handed down from the influential in-laws which must never be discussed in profiles of Williams. Now, he also shared a Manhattan address with Immelt and with Welch.

These are the sorts of facts people like Williams work quite hard to suppress. Obedient members of the guild will generally keep such facts undiscussed. This leads us rubes to believe the relentless cons about Brian’s vast everydayness.

Can we talk? Brian Williams was in Iraq because his employers worked quite hard to get us there. That’s how we found our way into Iraq—with people like Williams and Matthews pimping the glories of Candidate Bush, then calling Gore “un-American.”

We’ve warned you and warned you and warned you again—disaster lurks when “journalists” are handed multimillions by corporate owners like Welch. This syndrome affects our “liberal” journalists too, including those we may be most inclined to love, respect and trust.

We’ll discuss that problem before the week’s end; your lizard brain will insist that we’re wrong. But we don’t think that Williams is an obvious “decent guy” in the way he approaches the world.

We think he scratched his way to the top. Along the way, we’ll guess that he was often less than obsessively honest, and not just about those RPGs in Iraq.

People are dead all over the world because so many chasers of “press corps” Mammon sang these particular songs. On the brighter side, Williams is very wealthy today. People say he’s a decent guy.

Brian is very wealthy today. People are dead all over the world, but it all turned out well in the end!

Tomorrow: Ongoing points of concern

When Howard Kurtz sang Brian’s songs: Back in 2007, Howard Kurtz sang Brian’s various songs in his book, Reality Show.

By then, Williams was very important. Perhaps for that reason, Kurtz broke his back to tell Brian’s story in the way Brian likes it told.

In December 2007, we did a three-part Special Report about Kurtz’s ridiculous fluffing of Williams. For links to all three parts, click here.

For something resembling a fourth part to the series, you can just click this. Regarding that final report:

Brian Williams unveiled some “Gallatin chic” that day. For once in their lives, Tim and Chris had found their own alleged everydayness topped!


  1. Williams used journalism as a means to garner appearances on 30 Rock where he could be thought of as humorous and cool. Williams attempted to become the host of the Tonight Show. Williams is ridiculous.

  2. "Williams has always told us tales about his vast everydayness. In the process, he got enormously wealthy. This aspect of his career will go almost wholly undiscussed as other vastly overpaid pundits pretend to discuss what's occurred."

    If you think that's how US journalism works, that shows you're just a sheeplike BobFan, er, what sorry trollchanneling there for a minute -- I mean, fucking "duh!" cuz that's EXACTLY how it works.

    1. So why does that imply no one need talk about it? The reality is not public perception, else people would not be discussing breach of trust. Who trusts someone recognized already as a corporate shill?

    2. Fucking "duh!" indeed, dude. And of course the reason Somerby is able to talk about it is because this "almost wholly undiscussed" aspect is reported, which is where Bob gets the figures. Unless, wholly shit, Bob makes the numbers up using some rough rule of thumb.

  3. Yesterday someone said John Stewart did a better job reporting on Williams than Somerby did. I watched Stewart and he suggested that the lies that got us into Iraq are more important to investigate than the kind of lies Williams tells. Unlike Somerby, John Stewart never connected Brian Williams to the pimping of the Iraq war. Was that an oversight on Stewart's part or are they millionaires sticking together. Did Stewart truly not know what Williams did back in the day? Are they friends because Williams has tried to curry favor with the comedians and entertainers he wishes to join? If so, I am disappointed in Stewart -- but at least he has never claimed to be an investigative journalist.

    Maddow yesterday was complaining because no one at NBC would come on her show and discuss Brian Williams with her. A feeble excuse for not examining the things Somerby says here today.

    1. Yes, by all means, the nerve of Stewart making comedy out of this by mocking both Williams and the right-wing feeding frenzy this has created.

      After all, Stewart is under strict obligation to recount all the past sins of Brian Williams, otherwise his "reporting" on this is uttlerly worthless.

      And speaking of past sins, do I recall some blogger telling us in those dark days that Bush really wasn't lying when he said that Saddam had tried to purchase enriched uranium from Africa? And wasn't it the same blogger who warned us not to get too giddy because those weapons of mass destruction could be found any day now? In fact, he would be surprised if they weren't?

    2. "Yesterday someone said John Stewart did a better job reporting on Williams than Somerby did."

      Not only that, someone also said Somerby's main function is to educate.

    3. "Not only that, someone also said Somerby's main function is to educate."

      This blog is called "The Daily Howler" not without reason.

    4. Amen, as Hillary Clinton, who, another commneter noted "is genuinely religious" might say.

    5. Stewart who is sometimes brillant, did a segment on Williams that was a bit too cute. Somerby cut to yhe chase. Follow the money if you're interested in Williams motivation. The corporate news media, including Stewart in this case, would find the money component to this story unseemly and hitting just a little to close to home. For accurately framing the matter in a way corporate media wouldn't dare, Edge Somerby.

    6. Are you the final judge, or are others allowed to view it differently?

      You see, I don't give a rat's patootey what these guys make. I assume network TV personalities are very well paid, and that goes back to the days of those fearless gatekeepers who -- in Bob's imagination -- kept us away from sordid stuff we didn't really need to how.

      So they are motivated by money? Oh, pass the smelling salts. But here's another shocker for you. The primary reason I get up and go to work every day is for the money.

      Don't know about you.

    7. "Final judge"?! What the hell are you whining about?

      Of course Brian gets up and goes off to work every day just like you and the rest of us regular fellas.

      You'll have to forgive me, I've got to get back to my job ginning up a war for my corporate masters. Once the bullets start flying we all stand to make a bundle!

    8. With Stewart leaving "The Daily Show" where will Millennials get their news now?

    9. cicero, like your hero Somerby, I am certain you have no clue how millennials get their news.

    10. Kinda surprised to learn that the Iraq invasion was all Brian Williams' doing.

      All this time, I thought Bush and Cheney had something to do with it.

    11. Who could forget Colin Powell and his power point demonstration at the U.N.?

    12. No one is suggesting the Iraq invasion was all Williams' doing. He was just one of a number of high profile million dollar paid salesman. I'm sure his paymasters feel as if they got more than their money's worth.

    13. No one except of course Somerby who "seems" to be heaping a whole lot of blame for the Iraq invasion on the shoulders of Brian Williams.

      But then, he sure is fun to kick right now. Let's not deprive Somerby of his sport.

    14. When the chips were down and history was in the balance all Williams did was promote Rush Limbaugh's notion that those who opposed the soon to be unfolding disaster were "un-American".

      My question- why would any liberal feel pity for, let alone defend that type of person? He pissed on you and your interests, and got wealthy doing it, at long last where is your self-respect?

    15. Where are all these "chips were down/history in the balance" liberals when POTUS Obama reinvaded Iraq after pulling out all U.S. combat forces?

      "The U.S. troops in Iraq is expected to grow to about 3,000."

    16. From one of cheech's blogger idols:

      So, it’s poetic justice that Mueller spent her last months as a hostage of the Islamic terrorists with whom she thought she had some sort of kinship and sisterhood. And that she died in their hands.

      When people ask me what I think of Kayla Mueller, I’ll say, I think she’s incinerated.

      Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.

    17. "My question- why would any liberal feel pity for, let alone defend that type of person?"

      Good question. Now identify this strawman "liberal" who both pities and defends Williams.

      You do realize it is possible to think Williams is an idiot, while still thinking the right-wing echo chamber is on yet another feeding frenzy that Somerby has joined.

      Or don't you?

  4. In the fog of Williams-gate, Bob has never mentioned how Williams covered the flap over Hillary's song of sniper fire.

    Bob has quoted a number of commenters at web based publications in his coverage of Brian-ghazi, but he has never mentioned a topic brought up by several readers on his own. How will the suspension, without pay, of a network anchor caught imbellishing his experience in a war zone, now impact coverage of someone running for President who has done the same thing.

    1. Interesting question, but in Howlerland, it always depends on whose Gore is getting oxed.

    2. Too bad ex weather babe Diane Sawyer won't be around to sneer a loaded question about credibility to Hillary from her oily,oliagenous old coot lips.

    3. Oily meatloaf sandwiches will do that to you every time. But you know, when your man is a major cultural figure like Mike Nichols, and he is responsible for you getting to the top, you feed him what he wants.

    4. I don't know, lying about his WW2 experiences didn't seem to hurt the great Ronaldo Reagan. Must be that damn liberal media bias.

  5. Has Somerby always been fixated on the fact very well paid people buy very nice houses?

    1. Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Meredith Vieira.

      Et tu, Brian Williams?

    2. Al Gore only paid $9 million for his 6,500 ft2 mansion. But that was before the Current TV network,, which he helped to start in 2004, was sold to Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Satellite Network for about $500 million. After debt, he grossed an estimated $70 million.

    3. But Al is not East Coast Irish Catholic under the thumb of Jack Welch, so he gets to buy any kind of digs he wants to.

    4. No, Somerby has always been interested in how some people sell out and prostitute themselves in order to become very very well paid.

    5. This is because Somerby has never had to worry about "selling out" because nobody was buying.

    6. Cicero was only paid in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his dorm rights at Liberty University (or is it "College"? I know it isn't Harvard.), but that was before he began his internship & paid trolling for Media Research Center, which then spun off the award-winning (Breitbart Golden Goose Award) Newsbusters, which cost him his lucrativeless "trollternship." After debt incurred for numerous (one or two?) Breitbart cruises, he moved back in with his parents and was able to keep his computer and internet account. He is now awaiting approval of his application back into the internship program with MRC.

      Talk about gumption!

  6. 3 Muslims at UNC gunned down by progressive atheist domestic terrorist

  7. Despite the murderer's crazed left-wing anti-theist Facebook page, the New York Times headlines, "Police: Parking Dispute Sparks 3 North Carolina Killings." If a white supremacist with a crazed racist Facebook page murdered 3 blacks the Times would also attribute the murders to a parking dispute in its headline and Charles Blow would not leap to premature conclusions.

    1. The NYT was inspired by the POTUS Obama calling the terrorist attack on the Paris Kosher Deli that resulted in the murder of four Jews as just being about zealots who "randomly shoot a bunch of folks..."

    2. From one of cheech's blogger idols:

      So, it’s poetic justice that Mueller spent her last months as a hostage of the Islamic terrorists with whom she thought she had some sort of kinship and sisterhood. And that she died in their hands.

      When people ask me what I think of Kayla Mueller, I’ll say, I think she’s incinerated.

      Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.

  8. "Did Williams actually want to replace Jay Leno? The claim is now being widely reported. We don’t know if it’s accurate."

    Yes, and not knowing if its accurate has never stopped Somerby from passing along another juicy rumor.

    1. Hey, it had one more anonymous source than ESPN had for deflategate.

  9. "We doubt that Williams is a consistent “conservative.” B.S.

    Does that mean you consider him an inconsistent liberal? The fact that B.W. voted for Obama twice didn't solidify his liberal credentials? Colin Powell voted for Obama twice and liberals adore him despite convincing the U.N. Iraq had WOMDs.

    B.W. shops at Target because his favorite FLOTUS shops there.

    "First Lady Michelle Obama Shops at Target / NBC Washington's Shomari Stone Reports "

    1. I guess the need to label everyone in the known universe as "liberal" or "conservative" is easier than thinking.

      I also find that it largely depends on the person doing the labelling. For example, I have no doubt that you believe Williams to be a "liberal." Was it also you who posted the long list of "liberals" who voted for the War in Iraq that included Nebraska's Ben Nelson?

    2. You mean the former Democratic Party Senator who provided the crucial 60th vote for Obamacare? What about him?

    3. Not to mention "left winger" Zell Miller. LOL

    4. Or left-winger Joe Lieberman, who I guess only provided the crucial 59th vote.

    5. What other Democrat Senator who voted for Iraq War II on the list I posted do liberals not consider liberal enough? You still got 25 to go. You were not complaining about them not being far left enough when their votes counted for Obamacare

    6. From my perspective, cicero? Very few. As in none.

      And that's the problem with these labels. They say more about where the person doing the labelling stands than they do about the person being labeled.

    7. Not even the Senator Bernie Sanders, the admitted Socialist is liberal enough for Howlers? The mind boggles

    8. Your mind is boggled! Finally, some truth!

    9. Hey cheech,

      You get paid by the number of posts or the number of responses?

  10. I really enjoyed following Bob's link back to his multi-part piece on Kurtz's book.

    His writing skills have really deteriorated.