The accidental man: On the surface of things, Brian Williams was a very strong early achiever.
After two years of community college, he came to Washington in September 1979 as a student at Catholic University.
Things took off from there—or at least, it seems they did. As of 1980, he had an internship at the White House. It became a paying job.
When Jimmy Carter left the White House, so did Williams. Still just 21, he moved to a job at the political action committee of the National Association of Broadcasters. His boss, Ken Schanzer, later described his role thusly:
“Although he was only an aide, he helped us raise money, organize nationally, and was a key member in all the discussions charting the direction in which we were going to go. I thought he was enormously mature and politically sophisticated for his years.”
Who knows? Maybe Schanzer was embellishing when he made those remarks. (Schanzer went on to be head of NBC Sports.) At any rate, one thing seemed to lead to another from there. By the time he was 34, NBC News was paying Williams $2 million per year.
Here’s our question: How did Williams get that first gig at the White House? In 2012, the anchor answered the question this way in a commencement address at George Washington University.
Warning! Self-deprecation alert!
WILLIAMS (2012): I come down [to Washington] and I tried to transfer my vast credits from Brookdale [Community College] to Catholic University. They have run out of dorm space because I am a little late in applying, so they find room for me in the administration building of Trinity College across the street. There are eight of us living on the top floor—eight men, 600 Catholic women. It was fantastic.“Things just started happening to me!” That should probably be the motto on Williams’ coat of arms.
And things just start happening to me. One of the young men we lived with in the administration building named Rocco came home one day and said he had to vacate an internship at the White House, was anyone interested?
I owned one blue blazer, again not to brag, but I had worked at Sears, and I bought it with my employee discount.
And I said, “Why, Rocco, that sounds like a terrific opportunity for me. After all, there is nothing about my background that doesn't leave me perfectly equipped to go into the West Wing every day.”
And so I interviewed for the internship, and by some quirk I got it. And for the next year, every day I was going into the West Wing in the Old Executive Office Building, while trying to pursue my college studies at Catholic University.
Williams’ story may be perfectly accurate, of course. On the other hand, does that sound like the way people get internships at the White House? Rocco says he’s leaving his post, does anyone want to take it?
That story may be perfectly accurate. We know of no reason to think that Williams had any pull inside the Carter White House. On the other hand, has any journalist profiling Williams ever bothered to ask?
That said, it’s a perfect example of the humble, sad-sack way Williams has always tended to tell his life story. Except in the early days, when the early profiles began presenting his life in a dangerous way—in terms of wealth and connection.
As Williams continued that commencement address, he told a sad sack, woe-is-me tale about the reason why he dropped out of college in 1980. Earlier in his career, he had told the same story in an extremely upbeat way, as we noted in this morning's report.
Will the real Brian Williams please stand up? Do you believe the story he told about his route to the White House?
Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.ReplyDelete
There are people for whom reality and facts are less important than what people believe. Richard Nixon seems to have been one such. But, it seems like a bad idea to appoint that sort of person to head a news room.ReplyDelete
"There are people for whom reality and facts are less important than what people believe."Delete
How ironic coming for you, David.
His comment about owning only a blazer bought from Sears is odd. What did he wear to church, to weddings, to dinner out, to prom or other dances, to court, on high school picture day, to debate meets? I doubt Williams parents were so poor they never bought him a sport coat anywhere along the line, so he had to buy his own at Sears (15% off). But he apparently had a car. That just makes no sense to me.ReplyDelete
Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more people of questionable intellect who routinely embellish paranoid questions raised by the blog author to even substantially higher levels of absurdity.. Such rantings are not an indicator of the level bemusement of other readers, the repetitiveness of the content posted, nor the seventeen pointless years in which the blog author has filled his archives with bullshit like this.Delete
So, tell us again why you are here...Delete
To see you whine.Delete
Thought I explained this before. I'm really stupid and this is the only place on the Internet where I'm a lot smarter than the blogger and both his fans.Delete
But I guess like a true fan, things have to be told to you over and over and over again. For 17 years.
People who embellish stories like this (e.g., lie) depend on the collusion of listeners. It would be rude to challenge someone telling an anecdote about their own life by asking about obvious flaws. Conversational pragmatics do not apply to news reports. The problem here is that fellow journalists are treating Williams with conventional courtesy, not as the subject of a factual report. He is being accorded that courtesy because he is clearly a member of some in-group. If he were not privileged, his remarks would have been examined more carefully from the start. Now that he is news, he apparently is still being treated as privileged when he should instead be the subject of a serious report.Delete
Obama still smokes but no one reports it. Gary Hart thought private behavior would be ignored when the rules had changed and such behavior was now being made public. Williams apparently thought it was still OK for story-tellers to exaggerate but those rules are apparently changing too, hopefully toward a standard of greater accuracy. This may be an inevitable consequence of the ability of anyone to check anything quickly via the internet, just as Hart's problems arose from the onset of our surveillance state.
Brian Williams got caught and is paying the penalty. The rest of the world has moved on.Delete
Now it's on to Nichelle Nichols and her MLK persuaded me to stay on "Star Trek" apocrypha.Delete
"Now it's on to Nichelle Nichols .... apocrypha."Delete
I couldn't have said it any better.
LBJ loved the tape he had J. Edgar Hoover make of MLK and Nichelle Nichols. Doris K. Goodwin says LBJ would always wear his Silver Star and call her Uhura while they worked on the memoirs.Delete
I know this is true because cicero wrote about it while complaining about the influence Canadians on American television has in America losing the Vietnam war.
Somerby warned us people would get bad history lessons from Selma.Delete
Shatner caused Saigon to fall in 1975? Did you learn that at a Trekkie Convention?
No. We read it in your comments.Delete
The plot thickens.
Trust no one!
"If I have a favorite president, it would have to be Lyndon Johnson and I guess it's for sentimental reasons. It has nothing to do with Lyndon Johnson being a liberal southern Democrat." Brian WilliamsDelete
Williams just liked the way LBJ picked up his beagles.
I thought it was because Johnson made up stories about his exploits in combat zones too. Or is it because the helicopter he rode in that was shot was once Johnsons's.Delete
You may be right though. Johnson loved his beagles. And Williams rescued one or more puppies.
People here show no respect. Nobody bothered to show the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.ReplyDelete
None of you answered the question posed by Somerby in this excellent continuing of coverage of the fraud that is Brian Williams which it took others 16 years to catch, but which Bob spotted the minute the words "Polo Shirt" left his mouth.
"Do you believe the story he told about his route to the White House?"
It has not been journalistically disproven so it must be covered as a possibility. Could he have gotten there another way. It certainly seems he could although I have no way of knowing myself. Anything is possible.
When is Bob going to show he has two IQ points, strike them together and show the spark to ask the real question about Williams.Delete
What the Sam Hill happened to the second puppy?
Hahaha you guys are to funny.Delete
People like you who encourage these trolls are do a disservice to the blog, and more importantly to the blog author. I am glad we have the disclaimer to remind casual readers of the esteem most readers have for Bob Somerby. It is the best thing since the guy who donated money to the Howler for every troll remark and drive KraZ away.Delete
Enough of the Life of Brian.ReplyDelete
Can we get back to the Crucifixion of Kristof?
Always stay on the right side of GoreDelete
I was wondering why Bob was running so hard at Brian Williams since he isn't black and/or female, but then I scrolled down ... of course, Williams once said something unfortunate about Al Gore.ReplyDelete
Christ. So predictable.
Williams is also "East Coast Catholic," another tribe that Somerby loathes.Delete
He has been blogging his way to hell for many years. Here, for example, is one post he will have to explain to St. Peter just to make Purgatory:Delete
"How thoroughly ethnic did this news org become? When Bush and Gore debated in October 2000, MSNBC assembled a five-member panel to discuss the sessions:
Brian Williams (moderator)
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Remarkably, all five were East Coast Irish Catholics! First guest commentator on the air each night? Tim Russert, East Coast Irish Catholic!"
Another tribe Somerby thinks shouldn't be tipping the scales of our political process on behalf of the plutocrats. I doubt he loathes them.Delete
If we might paraphrase Bertrand Russell: When the pundit corps remembers Tim Russert, it’s novels, all the way down.Delete
That is the point. Bad journalism makes it hard for people to tell the difference between facts and novels.Delete
There was a time when Somerby was really on his game, before he took the lazy, dumb, liberal path and began categorizing everyone as lazy dumb liberals. Or is it he began categorizing all liberals as lazy and dumb?Delete
Anyway, an earlier description of Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews from the priceless archives:
"If we were to define these three by ideology, the most helpful standard term might be “Reagan Democrat.” Matthews and Dowd grew up in Republican-tilting homes; in his book, Russert seemed to describe his dad as a classic Reagan Dem.
Reagan Democrats aren’t movement conservatives. But good grief—they aren’t “liberals” either! And no, they aren’t “left-wing.”
You might think of them as Irish Catholics:"
Bob Somerby was able to put his loathing for East Coast Irish Catholics and their servitude to plutocrats aside when it came time to putting country first. Bob, after all, is no Bolshevik.Delete
NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert said that covering the war on terrorism is not like covering politics, a presidential impeachment or a missing intern.
"In times of war, the media should lower our voices, modulate our tone. Yes, we are journalists, but we are also Americans," Russert said in a speech to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in October 2001.
Bob heeded that admonition from the son of a humble Buffalo sanitation worker.
"Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve never doubted that Saddam had WMDs. In fact, we’d be surprised if he didn’t. We think antiwar types set themselves up for a fall when they crow about the lack of quick discovery."
Hate to say it but KZ appears to be back.Delete
@10:08 you seem to be arguing that no one should believe anything, ever. Believing that Saddam had WMD is something a citizen ought to be able to do if his government asserts it as a basis for war. The fact that it is proven he can't is the reason work like this blog is essential.Delete
9:49, liberals have become lazy and dumb. "There was a time" they were not always as lazy and dumb.Delete
Someone else had an experience similar to the one Brian Williams had getting hired and promoted by Betty Endicott at WTTG in Washington.ReplyDelete
Confessions of a News Producer:
Why I Quit the Wacky World of Washington DC's Channel 5 WTTG-TV
By: Frank O'Donnell
Of course, he, like Williams, could be making this up. That said, it doesn''t explain how Brian got THERE, or Bush for that matter. Nor why we are HERE.
Or perhaps Williams read this himself and was influenced by it. For you there is only the possibility that reflects badly on Somerby. That is the nature of bias.Delete
Actually you are the one who reflects badly on Somerby. Shame on you and quit embarassing us all with these distortions.Delete
Somerby taught us, in the Lessons of the Lonely Governor in the Forest of Cones, that if something is not journalistically disproven it must always be discussed when presenting a story. I am merely adding another theory.
It is also possible that Brian Williams sold a tie or served pancakes to Chris Christie as a tubby teen. We just don't know.
"I know you are but what am I?" Peewee couldn't have argued better. You make your troll mother proud.Delete
My mother died about the same time as Betty Endicott. Probably from the same cause. Al Gore had not taken his initiative yet so she never got to know what a troll was.Delete
Yet another tale of "crazy" Betty and the WTTG newsroom:Delete
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