×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brian Williams Still Needs Work Talking About Brian Williams

Brian Williams said the right things – “I own this. I own up to this” – without it ever feeling that he deviated from the script in his obligatory “Today” show interview, paving the way for his return to television.

The former NBC News anchor, who will now be given refuge at MSNBC, appeared to bring a certain level of self-analysis, bordering on therapy, to dissecting why he conflated stories when he left the NBC studios and embarked on his second career as a talkshow guest and cameo actor in NBC sitcoms. So it’s fair to bring some of that to the discussion of his on-air mea culpa, which felt very much like a condition of getting back on the air.

Williams is a gifted TV journalist. But based on this interview it will be a relief when he can stop talking about himself, since introspection is clearly not his forte.

The prevailing takeaway, frankly, is that as charming as Williams can be, beyond the slickly polished surface there’s just not much there. He came closest to identifying the source of the problem when he conceded that he applied “a double standard; I was sloppier” in his statements during appearances on latenight comedy shows, without addressing whether the self-aggrandizing aspects of that were intended to burnish his credentials or just the equivalent of a guy improving a story when he retells it in a bar. (Relatively little has been made of the fact that the precipitating incident to all this, from Williams’ Iraq coverage in 2003, came during the window when he was being publicly groomed to replace Tom Brokaw.)

Williams characterized his misinformation as “a bad urge inside me,” seeming to ignore that it’s a very human impulse, just one that’s inappropriate for the job he held. Nor did he address NBC’s role in encouraging him to promote the newscast by expanding his reach beyond mere journalism to celebrity status, or what the specific ground rules should be in that regard for journalists – or at least him – going forward.

While it’s nitpicking, Williams also rather unfortunately used the term “torture” to describe how he felt being sidelined for the last four months. Given that torture has been very much in the headlines, it couldn’t help but sound like one more act of hyperbole, coming from someone who nearly scuttled a career that pays him millions through a series of unforced errors.

NBC’s Matt Lauer stressed that the interview was conducted with “no conditions or guidelines,” but he seemingly sought to do Williams a favor early on by asking the People magazine-style question, “Personally, what have these five months been like?”

Williams admitted that giving up his “Nightly News” role wasn’t his “first choice,” but stressed that he was grateful for the opportunity for redemption. And while Lauer sought to be fair and detached, that didn’t stop his “Today” colleagues from muttering words of support and encouragement at the end of the segment. “I do believe in second chances,” Lauer said.

It was one of those rare moments in TV news when silence would have been the better option. But then, Brian Williams could tell them all about that.

More TV

  • Wendy Williams Sober Living House

    Wendy Williams Reveals She's Been Staying in a Sober-Living House

    Wendy Williams, during an emotional monologue on her talk show on Tuesday, revealed through tears that she has been staying at a sober-living house. “So you know me for being a very open and truthful person,” she began the segment on “The Wendy Williams Show,” fighting through tears. “And I’ve got more to the story [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • Michael Jackson R Kelly

    'Leaving Neverland,' 'Surviving R. Kelly' Composers on How They Scored Sexual Abuse Docs

    How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons? That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two [...]

  • Canadian Animation Shop Guru Studio Makes

    Canadian Animation Shop Guru Studio Makes Moves in China

    Guru Studio, an award-winning Canadian animation studio, is exploring the possibility of opening an office in Hong Kong or mainland China. The Toronto-based company is keen to get a slice of China’s animation market, which has been growing quickly. Louise Jones, Guru vice president of finance and business affairs, said at a FilMart panel discussion [...]

  • Viacom HQ LA

    Viacom Goes to War With AT&T Over DirecTV Carriage Deal

    Viacom has declared war against AT&T, blasting the telco giant on several fronts as the companies wrestle over a carriage renewal deal that is vital to Viacom’s long-term financial health. As of today, Viacom has begun running crawls and promo spots on its channels warning viewers that Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and other channels [...]

  • Maureen FitzPatrick Rob Silverstein

    Rob Silverstein Out as 'Access Hollywood' Executive Producer After 20 Years

    Rob Silverstein, exec producer of NBC’s entertainment newsmagazine “Access Hollywood” and its spinoffs, is leaving the syndication franchise after 20 years at the helm. He’ll be replaced by “Hot Bench” alumnus Maureen FitzPatrick. Silverstein’s departure was announced Tuesday morning at a staff meeting for “Access” producers. Silverstein was also exec producer of the hourlong talk [...]

  • '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke

    '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke Message

    A billboard for the Fox procedural “9-1-1” on Pico Blvd., adjacent to the studio lot, has been vandalized with an anti-Beto O’Rourke message, Variety has learned. The imagery was put up by a politically conservative man who goes by ‘Sabo.’ The promotional art for the series featured on the billboard shows a car wreck sticking out [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content