The atmosphere surrounding Brian Williams has turned so toxic that it’s not clear when—or even if—he’ll be able to return to the anchor chair.
The original plan—Williams apologizes, takes himself off the air for a few days, schmoozes with Letterman, and slides back into his job—has crumbled. The apology was weak and inaccurate, too fleeting to heal the wound over telling a lie about his chopper in Iraq having been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
His statement that he had decided as managing editor to suspend himself made it look like nobody at NBC is in charge, that he is so big and famous that he answers to no one. And NBC isn’t really conducting an internal “investigation” that would hold Williams accountable. So now he’s in a kind of professional limbo, with no apparent Plan B.
What’s been striking to me is how many people are willing to end what has been a pretty solid career because of this one admittedly horrible mistake. Of course, new reports of discrepancies aren’t helping, serving instead as a kind of Chinese water torture eroding what’s left of his credibility. And the feedback I’m getting—on Twitter, Facebook and by e-mail—is overwhelmingly against Williams keeping his NBC job.
There’s even a Rasmussen poll out: 40 percent say Williams should resign, 35 percent disagree and 25 percent aren’t sure.
A few lonely voices are starting to defend Brian Williams, to call for a sense of proportion in dealing with his Iraq deception. Fox’s Alan Colmes said yesterday it was “sad” to see this mistake “destroy a man and destroy his career.”