I grew up in a household with a father, mother, two sisters and an occasional grandparent. Back when more of us were still alive, we often sat around the table after a meal and told stories. So help me Hannah, to listen to us tell the tales, none of us lived in the same house or shared the same experiences. Frequently, it was the conversational equivalent of Rorschach tests crossed with Rashomon. And those stories morphed over time. The funniest bits got played up for laughs; the sad ones; the painful ones, well, if we were generous, we learned to edit and ease up on those.
So I'm going on the record to support Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor, of NBC Nightly News. I don’t know how or why his story of his time in Iraq evolved. There are vast amounts of digital ink being spilled on Mr. Williams’ chronology; not nearly as much on the science of memory; and far too much umbrage, snark and glee for such a serious subject. Mr. Williams has acknowledged what he did. He has apologized. And he is temporarily off the air.
I understand this is journalism. I understand there are ethical standards. I also understand Mr. Williams has sustained a crushing blow to his credibility and his career.
Back in 1995 Jay Leno asked Hugh Grant: “What the hell were you thinking?”
Hugh Grant eventually replied: “I did a bad thing, and there you have it.”
Yeah, Hugh Grant is an actor. Brian Williams is a journalist. I get that.
I also know I am very grateful no television crew was ever in my home rolling tape as my family and I told our stories; grateful no internet existed to pounce upon any of our missteps, misspoken, misremembered moments, nor the embellished tales we told.
My gut says Mr. Williams is a smart, well intentioned human being who screwed up.
I hope he rides out this media tumult and emerges tarnished, battered, but unbroken.