The unraveling of Nightly News anchor Brian Williams's accounts of his reporting in Iraq and Katrina-ravaged New Orleans has become a black mark on NBC News's reputation. A detailed account in Thursday's Washington Post of the decision to suspend Williams for six months without pay appears to demonstrate how seriously the Peacock Network has taken the newsman's transgression—NBC Universal's CEO Steve Burke even considered firing Williams outright.
Here's how the Post describes it, citing anonymous NBC officials:
The suspension was the culmination of a long period of internal concerns. NBC officials had been warned for some time about Williams’s exaggerations and self-aggrandizement, the network official said.
People were sending up red flags about a year ago, the official said.
What started out as eye-rolling escalated into genuine concern, but no one took action earlier because the statements that drew attention of staffers were not aired on the news broadcast.
Indeed Tom Brokaw, Williams's predecessor in the anchor chair and the elder statesman at NBC News, had been "raising concerns" about his colleague for "at least a year." NPR's David Folkenflik reported:
Well, Brokaw's told colleagues, going back at least a year, that he heard Williams giving increasingly grandiose versions of the downed Iraqi helicopter story that got him into trouble in recent days, and that Brokaw himself looked into the anecdote and that the facts simply didn't match. Similarly, in an interview Brokaw did of Williams at Columbia University last June, Williams said he witnessed a suicide following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Katrina was really this definitional story for Williams. It was just a year after he took over. Questions have been raised about the veracity of his reporting there.
Ultimately, as Tom Brokaw told one associate, he felt Williams was more of a performer than an anchor, and these tensions become relevant at a time of crisis like this. Until last night, in fact, there were few public sides of leadership by top network brass, and that makes Brokaw all the more relevant.
To sum up: Folks at NBC had been "warned for some time" of Williams's fabulism, "sending up red flags" at least as early as the beginning of last year. That's around the same time Brokaw himself began speaking out around NBC about his concerns with Williams.
But if there were such strong doubts about Williams at the beginning of 2014, and if Brokaw is so widely respected in the building, why did NBC renew the Williams's contract for (reportedly) five years and $50 million just two months ago?
Here's what NBC News's Deborah Turness said back in December, in a memo announcing the renewal: “Brian is one of the most trusted journalists of our time. He has led this organization through every major news event for the last decade, from Hurricane Katrina in his first year in the anchor chair to his exclusive interview with Edward Snowden this year, through elections, wars, natural disasters, tragedies and triumphs."
NBC even produced a promotional video to commemorate Williams's 10-year anniversary in the chair and emphasize that he would remain there for years to come. "He's been there. He'll be there," was the promo's tag line. Watch it below:
Is it the case that NBC knew less than it claims to now know about the problems with Williams? Or did the network move forward on renewing his contract, praising Williams publicly for his trustworthiness and even publishing a hagiographic tribute, even as NBC's higher-ups were voicing their doubts?
Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana lists her parents' New Orleans address as her primary residence for voting purposes. But it's clear she and her husband consider their primary residence to be their multimillion-dollar home on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is already in the electoral battle of her life this November. Her national party is far out of step with Louisiana voters on health care, abortion, and energy issues, and the national mood is continuing to shift against the Democrats. And the leader of that party, President Obama, is deeply unpopular in the Bayou State.
The Washington Post reports that Democratic senator Mary Landrieu doesn't own a home in her state of Louisiana, instead listing her residence on federal election forms as either a mansion she owns in Washington, D.C. or her parents' home in New Orleans. Landrieu, who is facing a tough reelection battle in November, is registered to vote at the New Orleans address.
The great thing about this account of the artists and intellectuals in and around New Orleans’s French Quarter during the 1920s is that it upends nearly every assumption commonly made about the American South—even the true ones. The early-20th-century South may have produced the odd isolated genius, but it did not generate anything of cultural distinction. True enough.
The NBA franchise in New Orleans is, long overdue, considering a name change. This is a good thing—even though the proposed nickname Pelicans has been the target of an unfair amount of derision since being floated. To be sure, it’s not slick. It’s not modern. And it is not hip, like the singular form names of European soccer teams, such as United, Dynamo, or Arsenal. But it is quintessentially Louisiana.
New Orleans is, for many people, synonymous with disaster. But disaster has been the last thing on the minds of New Orleanians in the past few months, at least prior to the explosion that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast on April 20. Tourism was up, the local economy was growing at a steady pace, a new mayor had come into office, and most importantly, the city was still enthralled by the Saints’ stunning victory in Super Bowl XLIV. The Crescent City was back from the near death experience of Katrina. This most history-haunted of America’s cities was finally looking forward.