Late-night comics feasted on the Brian Williams story in their first telecasts since NBC announced it was investigating its anchor and Williams temporarily stepped down from his nightly newscast.
“Finally someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq War!” Jon Stewart marveled on The Daily Show. Stewart took Williams — a fave guest on the show — to task for inflating his claims about that helicopter flight in Iraq in 2003. But he savaged the press for misdirected fervor:
“Never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war that we probably wouldn’t have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual f*cking war.”
Last week, Williams apologized on NBC Nightly News for claiming the helicopter in which he was embedded in the early period of the Iraq War was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, after Stars and Stripes reported that members of the military claimed Williams helicopter was nowhere near the one that got hit. Williams has stepped down temporarily from anchoring the newscast while NBC News conducts an internal investigation into this claim, as well as other assertions he has made that are now being called into question.
Stewart diagnosed Williams problem as a classic case of Infotainment Confusion Syndrome. “Like with most cases of masturbation, typically being caught is punishment enough. Self-love can be a bad habit – probably shouldn’t do it at your work desk.”
It wasn’t much different than comments of former ABC News president David Westin and former ABC and CBS media pundit Jeff Greenfield who, earlier in the day, described Williams’ disgrace as the inevitable result of the news industry’s push to make anchors the star of stories they cover and “vivid personalites.”
At the end of Stewart’s show, he threw to Larry Wilmore, whose show Stewart EPs:
“Tonightly. War. What is it good for? I have no idea I was just asking you guys,” Wilmore began. “We look at our relationship with war and revisit the movie Black Hawk Down. Or, as Brian Williams calls it, The Brian Williams Story.”
Meanwhile, over at TBS, Conan O’Brien opened his show with talk of Sunday’s Grammy Awards — guess who won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word in Fiction: