They’re maybe not in the best position to dictate — Olbermann, for instance, only recently returned to his ESPN2 show from his own suspension, after engaging in a Twitter war with students at Penn State U in which Olbermann shot first and aimed later, and wound up tweeting the word “pitiful” in re students’ efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
Letterman, meanwhile, is the guy who famously surprised his studio audience in 2009 with news he’d cheated on his wife, before they were married, with another woman who worked on the show and a producer had tried to blackmail him about it.
“One would hope that, in this day and age, this can be overcome,” said Letterman, who ought to know. Prevailing thought is that it can — and that NBCU’s hiring last week of Andy Lack to run the news division paves the way for just that.
Letterman may still be hoping Williams will use Late Show to kick off a Road to Career Recovery Tour, taking a lesson from Dave’s ’09 master class in how to to use a studio audience’s applause and laughter to begin the process of public, press, and corporate, forgiveness.
(Williams, a frequent guest on Letterman’s late-night program, had been booked to appear when Stars and Stripes published its report in which soldiers said Williams was nowhere near the helicopter that took a rocket propelled grenade in the early days of the Iraq invasion, as the anchor had said in his newscast. He cancelled.)
Olbermann made his case, noting Williams is the guy who “would get the most personally hurt when there was a mistake, a factual error [on NBC’s newscast]…who would take it the most personally and be the most apologetic for it, who would bleed because somebody got a graphic wrong and combined two states, or called South Dakota North Dakota. It was not his mistake — he would assume responsibility for it,” Olbermann said.
Which, where we come from, is another way of saying, “part of Williams’ $10 mil a year salary included being managing editor of the newscast.”
“And his correction was longer than the mistake had been,” Olbermann added, significantly.
“There is more to this than we understand. And I don’t know what it is but I would like to think its fixable and I would like to see him back on the air and I would like to see this resolved,” Olbermann said.
Studio audience applauds healthily, but does not bring down the house.
Olbermann and Letterman spend some time walking a mile in Williams’ shoes; Olbermann says his report from the helicopter flight into Iraq would have gone like this: “I got up in a helicopter and crapped my pants.” Letterman says his version would have been: “Take me back to the Admirals Club — I want my nuts and cocktails. I’m done.”
They were maybe preaching to the choir. According to a recent poll, 42% of people think Williams should be allowed to return to NBC Nightly News. (Meanwhile, 23% think Bill O’Reilly’s status on Fox News Channel should be changed to suspended (11%) or sacked (12%) — equaling the 23% who think he should be allowed to continue as host of The O’Reilly Report. O’Reilly too is under scrutiny for imaginative renderings of his role in events he covered, while a reporter for CBS News and local TV stations.)