In preparation for his return, Brian Williams sat down for an interview with Matt Lauer, which was broadcast on the Today Show. Here is a YouTube video of that interview:
In this interview, Brian Williams apologies for having made inaccurate statements relating to his experience in the field while he was anchor of the Nightly News that led to his suspension. But Williams never admits that he lied. In fact, he denies that he lied.
Many have criticized Williams for his failure to forthrightly admit that he lied and apologize for having done so. Critics claim that this interview is not much better, if better at all, than Williams' on air apology before his suspension.
I posted two tweets in response to Williams' interview:
Flip Wilson: «The devil made me do it.» Brian Williams: «My ego made me do it.»#JustTellTheTruth #BrianWilliams @NBCNews
Should Brian Williams be "forgiven" for his transgressions, particularly absent an explicit admission that he lied? At the end of the day, my answer is a hesitant yes. I admit that I like Brian Williams and have enjoyed his style of reporting. I also feel, for reasons I discuss below, that he is in somewhat of a double-bind.
In my view, Brian clearly fears that directly admitting that he lied will doom him; that once he admits that he lied many people, including most media critics, will argue that he can never be trusted again as a journalist or reporter. So he has struggled to find another way to connect the dots. He admits that he told untruths, that he made false statements.
Some purported communications "experts" quoted in The New York Times incorrectly state that making false or factually incorrect statements is lying. That is wrong. Such a person may be lying or may be mistaken. But what would it mean for Brian Williams to have simply been mistaken in making factually erroneous statements of his own experiences? Is that even possible? How could he have merely been mistaken, as opposed to having intentionally uttered a factually false statement? That is the issue Brian not surprisingly is having difficulty explaining.
Brian talks about the false statements coming from a bad place, "a bad urge inside of me". He claims his ego made him say what he did, in an effort to elevate himself above his competition. But don't such "explanations" obfuscate rather than clarify or explain? His ego, after all, is not some alien "thing". It is a part of him! He seems to want to suggest or imply, subtly or otherwise, that he deceived himself while deceiving us.
But, not surprisingly, we're all having problems buying that explanation. Even if over time and through repetition he came to believe that his false stories had actually occurred, there had to have been at least one point in time when he consciously knew he was stating untruths. He even seems to concede this in acknowledging that he inflated his accounts to look "sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else". And at that point he was lying.
But, I understand the double-bind or conundrum that Brian Williams feels he is currently in. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Hedge about having actually lied and apologize for having made inaccurate statements that he attributes to "a bad urge inside of" him, and critics claim he isn't coming clean or truly taking responsibility for his misbehavior. Admit he lied and seek forgiveness, and critics will claim that, while he may be forgiven, he cannot be restored to a position of responsibility at a major news network.
I'm willing to live with his equivocation and welcome him back to television news. But I understand why others do not share my point of view.∆