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Tag: brian williams

WATCH: MSNBC Aired Perfect Movie Clip To Mock McCarthy-Trump Meeting

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On January 28, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy traveled to Palm Beach, Florida to meet with former President Donald Trump — and MSNBC's Brian Williams mocked the meeting by showing a clip from the 1996 movie "Jerry Maguire

Williams, who hosts The 11th Hour, told guests who included comedian Baratunde Thurston and Never Trump conservative Bill Kristol he was about to air "what I'm told is the first exclusive video out of this meeting today between McCarthy and Trump." Sounding perfectly serious, Williams told his guests, "We'll watch it and react on the other side." And then, he cut to the "Jerry Maguire" clip.

"Obviously, we have rolled the wrong clip," Williams told his guests as they were laughing. "We were sold a bill of goods here. I thought this was going to be of the McCarthy and Trump meeting and someone's gonna be, of course, in big trouble."

Never let it be said that Williams lacks a sense of humor.

Prospects Fading For ‘NBC Nightly News’ Anchor Brian Williams’ Return

By Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Many in the media business believe that the future looks bleak for suspended NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

NBC News executives are in the midst of an internal review into Williams’ reporting, and it will be at least five more weeks before a decision is made on whether he returns. Williams was benched in February after falsely stating that he was in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Speculation that Williams is a goner heated up last weekend after several reports based on unnamed sources said NBC’s review found numerous situations in which the anchor publicly embellished statements about his reporting. Some competitors even suggested that NBC was behind the leaks as a pressure tactic to get Williams to resign and let the network reduce or get out of its contractual obligation to pay him more than $50 million over the next five years.

But NBC News Chairman Andy Lack still hasn’t given up on the idea of bringing Williams back. Lack is also in no rush to decide, according to executives close to NBC News who were not authorized to speak publicly.

As NBC News president in the 1990s, Lack groomed Williams to be the successor to Tom Brokaw and remains close friends with him.

“If there is a path back, he is going to want to find it,” one of the executives said.

NBC declined to comment.

The chatter among members of the TV news industry — many of whom were in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the annual White House Correspondents’s Association dinner — was that it was difficult to see that path. “If there was, don’t you think we’d be hearing about it by now?” an NBC News veteran said.

One possible scenario is that Lack vouches for Williams because of their long relationship, puts him back in the anchor chair but strips him of his managing editor title. Lack would then assure the public that he would keep a close watch on Williams. However, no one is betting on that happening.

Lack does have to be mindful of his bosses at NBC parent Comcast Corp., who have little patience for sustained bad news and are not afraid to cut their losses. Comcast demonstrated that last week when the cable giant decided to kill its proposed $54-billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable amid heavy criticism from consumer advocates.

However, there is no truth to reports that suggested NBC wanted to get the Williams issue resolved before upfront ad sales for the 2015-16 season begin next week, people in the industry said.

Advertisers who spend about $450 million a year on the network evening news are going to base their commercial buys on pricing and ratings guarantees no matter who is in the anchor chair, the people said. Many of the products advertised on the broadcasts are found in medicine cabinets, and their media buyers are not particularly sensitive about program content.

Under the terms of his suspension, Williams is muzzled by NBC and cannot respond to the negative stories about further alleged problems with his reporting.

Those issues, according to the leaked accounts, all have to do with exaggerated and inaccurate statements Williams has made about his coverage on talk shows, interviews, or the banquet circuit. An NBC News executive said there was no word of any falsehoods that appeared on his newscast.

Even if the results of the review leave an opening to bring Williams back, Lack also will have to consider the effect on his organization’s morale.

There has been no public statement from anyone at NBC News calling for Williams to return to the anchor chair. His support among rank-and-file employees in the division is said to be thin.

There is also the issue of unseating current anchor Lester Holt, who has become the first solo African-American network evening news anchor because of Williams’ suspension.

Aside from the historic aspect of Holt’s status, his colleagues hold the veteran of the news division in high esteem.

Since Holt took over, NBC Nightly News ratings have slowly eroded at a rate that one evening news competitor said should have the network “moderately” concerned. The broadcast has slipped into second place in total viewers behind ABC World News Tonight With David Muir while remaining about even in the advertiser-favored 25-to-54 age group.

But it has not been the full-out ratings collapse that could have happened when a popular anchor is yanked from a program.

Perhaps another sign that Williams’ prospects for coming back are fading is that he came up twice in Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong’s monologue at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Up until then, NBC’s late-night hosts and comedy programs, all under the supervision of executive producer Lorne Michaels, had steered clear of making light of Williams’ situation. The anchor had been a popular guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, once hosted SNL and is friendly with the host of Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Late Night Roundup: David Letterman For Senate?

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) made a rare appearance on national TV, sitting in with his old friend David Letterman. And while they were discussing the ongoing controversies in Letterman home state of Indiana, the former comedian Franken had a suggestion: Dave should go back to Indiana — and seek to join Al by running for the Senate, too.

Seth Meyers took on the endless media speculation and questions to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about whether she’ll run for president — and her repeated responses that she is simply not doing so.

Conan O’Brien sat with the one and only Ringo Starr, who talked about how he had grown up with the most hardscrabble background among the Beatles.

And James Corden hosted Katie Couric, who talked about the ongoing controversies with her former news colleague Brian Williams, and called for a sense of mercy and consideration in the popular culture.

Late Night Roundup: Jon Stewart’s Victory Lap For Veterans

Jon Stewart declared victory last night on The Daily Show, when the Department of Veterans Affairs changed a regulation for veterans seeking health care outside of the system, the day after Jon had spotlighted this regulation. (Whether this was a coincidence of The Daily Show’s timing, and if the VA might’ve already been planning the rule change, was irrelevant — Jon is going to have a good time.)

Larry Wilmore celebrated “a gift from the Comedy Gods”: The presidential candidacy of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). And so he unveiled his new feature for the 2016 presidential race: “Blacklash 2016 — The Unblackening.”

Conan O’Brien also looked at the lighter side of the Cruz campaign — particularly Cruz’s oddball statement that he became a country music fan after 9/11.

Bill O’Reilly appeared with David Letterman, and defended himself vociferously against accusations that he might have exaggerated his journalistic experiences out in the field — and Bill also said that he thinks NBC News should bring back Brian Williams.

Fox ‘News’ Proof Of Old P.T. Barnum Adage

Every once in a while the universe arranges itself to make you look smarter than you are. Lucky me, I am having such a moment now.

Last month, when NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ career imploded as he was caught in a high-profile, self-aggrandizing lie, I suggested in this space that there would be much less angst or fallout if someone from Fox “News” were caught lying.

Enter Bill O’Reilly.

Shortly after I wrote that, the liberal Mother Jones magazine ran a story questioning his claim to have been in the combat zone in the Falkland Islands while covering that war for CBS. From his Fox podium, O’Reilly dismissed Mother Jones as the “bottom rung of journalism in America,” which was gushing praise next to his takedown of reporter David Corn, a “liar,” an “irresponsible guttersnipe,” a “far-left zealot” and “dumb.”

Since then, however, other news organizations have reported other instances of questionable assertions on O’Reilly’s part.

For instance, he has long said he was outside the home of a figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination and heard the shot when the man killed himself. That suicide happened in Palm Beach. Former colleagues say O’Reilly was in Dallas that day.

He has claimed he was “attacked by protesters” while covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots for Inside Edition. Former colleagues say he is exaggerating an incident where an angry man took a piece of rubble to a camera.

O’Reilly has said he witnessed the execution of a group of American nuns in El Salvador. That happened in 1980. O’Reilly apparently did not reach El Salvador until 1981.

For the one falsehood, Williams received a six-month suspension without pay. For a handful of apparent falsehoods, O’Reilly has received unstinting support from his bosses at Fox.

This rather neatly makes the point I sought to make a month ago. Namely, that Fox — the window-dressing presence of a few bona fide reporters notwithstanding — is not a real news-gathering organization but, rather, the propaganda arm of an extreme right wing that grows ever more cult-like and detached from reality as time goes by. Fox is a belief system, not a news network. Exhibit A is the fact that O’Reilly is not now fighting for his professional life.

To anticipate what his believers will say in his defense: Yes, he is a pundit and yes, pundits are entitled to their opinions. But that does not release them from the obligation to be factual.

It is telling that Fox recently responded to sharp questions about all this from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow by sending her a statement noting that O’Reilly’s ratings are up despite the controversy. To act as if ratings answer, or even address, questions of credibility is to express contempt for the very notion of credibility. It suggests Fox’s full-body embrace of the old saying, often attributed to Barnum, about the birth rate of suckers.

But why shouldn’t Fox be sanguine? People who mistake it for a news outlet will never hold it accountable for failing to be one, because in the final analysis, news is not really what it promises them, nor what they seek. Rather, what it promises and what they seek is an alternate reality wherein birthers make sensible arguments, death panels are real, Trayvon was the thug, Sarah Palin is a misunderstood genius, and all your inchoate fears of the looming Other are given intellectual cover so they no longer look like the scaredy-cat bigotry they are.

It gives its viewers what they need. It tells them what they want to hear.

Because it does and because that’s all they ask, O’Reilly’s troubles will soon very likely blow away. Yes, he is apparently a serial fabulist. And yes, that would disqualify you from most newsrooms.

But this is Fox.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at

Screenshot via Fox News

Republicans, Democrats Split On Brian Williams’ Fate, Poll Finds

By Ali Elkin, Bloomberg News (TNS)

By a small margin, American voters say Brian Williams should be allowed to return to hosting NBC Nightly News, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.

Forty-two percent support Williams’ return to the anchor chair while 35 percent do not. NBC suspended the host for six months in February after he was found to have exaggerated war stories.

Republicans and Democrats are split on Williams’ fate. Republicans oppose his return 42 percent to 33 percent, while Democrats support it 52 percent to 28 percent.

The poll shows that challenges to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s reporting have made less of an impact. (The network has dismissed questions, saying it stands by O’Reilly.) Fifty-one percent said they hadn’t heard enough about the issue to form an opinion, 23 percent said he should stay on air, 11 percent said he should be suspended, and 12 percent said he should be fired.

There was again a partisan divide. Twenty-one percent of Democrats supported O’Reilly’s firing compared to 4 percent of Republicans. Eighteen percent of Democrats supported his suspension compared to 8 percent of Republicans. And 11 percent of Democrats said he should stay on air, compared to 30 percent of Republicans.

The poll also surveyed American voters’ opinions on news networks’ trustworthiness.In a head-to-head matchup, Fox got the highest marks with 29 percent, followed by CNN with 22 percent, NBC and CBS tied at 10 percent, ABC at 8 percent, and MSNBC at 7 percent.

Moving over to late-night comedy, Tina Fey was the top choice to replace Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show out of six possible successors named in the poll, with 19 percent. The second choice was another Saturday Night Live Weekend Update alumnus, Dennis Miller, with 16 percent. Williams tied for fourth place with 7 percent.

The poll reached 1,286 registered voters by phone from Feb. 26-March 2. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Photo: notemily via Flickr

On Arkansas’ Anti-Gay Law, And Other Ridiculous Headlines

Housebound in an ice storm, the columnist finds himself distracted by online trivia and tempted to yell at the TV:

• Washington Post headline: “Williams undone by his gift for storytelling/Anchor’s love of a good yarn played a role in his downfall.”

Gee, you think? The bottom line is that there’s a little Ted Baxter in every TV news personality. However, when everybody starts laughing, Brian, it’s over.

• That said, you can always count on the high-end press for a fancy alibi. According to The New Yorker, many of our strongest memories could in reality be emotionally resonant illusions.

So it may not be strictly factual that I was driven out of the Rolling Stones after my weight topped 240.

“There are no Clydesdales in the Stones, mate,” I recall Mick saying.

Maybe it was Herman’s Hermits.

• “Who Was on the Business End of Bob Dylan Disses?” USA Today asks. Somebody gave Dylan a lifetime achievement award, and he spent 40 minutes kvetching about rivals real and imagined. Merle Haggard, for example, insists he’s always been a big Dylan fan.

In the unlikely event I’m given a lifetime writing prize, I’m going to thank everybody, praise my wife and sit down, not rehash every slanging match I’ve ever had with an editor and read selections from my hate mail.

But if brutal honesty’s the order of the day, I heard a worshipful review of Dylan’s new album of Frank Sinatra ballads on NPR. The bad news is that they also played selections, which were uniformly awful — worse if you knew the originals. Dylan’s a genius, but Sinatra’s gift was of a different order entirely.

If Dylan wasn’t so touchy, somebody might have told him.

• Cherchez les femmes. From a New York Times article describing the trial of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF president once expected to become president of France:

“Mr. Strauss-Kahn testified during the trial that he was too busy trying to deal with the ailing global economy to join frequent orgies. He said he attended such affairs at most four times a year.”

• Meanwhile, here in darkest Arkansas, “Land of Paradox,” the two big news items last week were runaway sales for the ludicrous sex epic Fifty Shades of Grey and the state legislature passing a law saying bakery shops can refuse to sell wedding cakes to gay couples because it’s in the Bible.

Of course, the Bible also forbids serving barbecued pork ribs, fried shrimp and crawfish. It’s OK to sell your daughter into slavery, or to have your surly teenage son stoned to death, but two brides on a wedding cake?

Jehovah will smite you for that.

Is it also forbidden to sell gay people tires, or cut their hair? It’s best to take no chances. All homosexuals reading this column are hereby commanded to stop. My salvation could depend upon it.

But one abomination at a time. News accounts described a Perryville legislator who spoke in favor of the gay discrimination bill shaking with emotion as she enumerated each sin encapsulated in the dread acronym LGBT. So I naturally wondered if she was among the enraptured swarm of Arkansas women flocking to the softcore S&M film down in Little Rock.

It wouldn’t be a big surprise. One TV station reported that Arkansans bought more advance tickets than every state but one, which, given our small population, is really saying something. Exactly what, I’d rather not stipulate. Only that surveys show Bible Belt residents consume more pornography than other regions, and that Dave Barry’s review of Fifty Shades of Grey is the funniest thing he’s written.

(I’m free to share these opinions, incidentally, because my wife’s idea of must-see cinema involves admirable women stricken with incurable diseases.)

That said, I can’t muster outrage at Arkansas’ foolish law. To flourish here, a lively sense of humor is a necessity. The law’s purely symbolic and will have no practical effect. It exists not to hurt real people, but to appease the martyr complex of bumpkins frightened by too-fast social change they see on TV. Two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declares gay marriage a constitutional right, the panic will subside. Everybody will move on to the next damned thing as if all this had never happened.

• Finally, a correction: I apologize to readers for an erroneous Facebook post claiming to have played right field for the Boston Red Sox during the 70s and 80s under the pseudonym “Dwight Evans.” It was never my intention to misappropriate Evans’ fine legacy. The truth is that my throwing arm was never strong enough to patrol right field in Fenway Park. I actually played left field under the name “Jim Rice.”

I deeply regret any embarrassment my faulty memory has caused Mr. Evans. Out of respect for his family and the entire Red Sox organization, I will have nothing further to say on this matter.

Photo: British actor Jamie Dornan (R) and US actress Dakota Johnson pose for photographers ahead of the UK premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey in central London on February 12, 2015 (AFP/Leon Neal)