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GOP Debate: NBC’s Brian Williams Cowers in the Corner

NBC Anchor Brian Williams

NBC Anchorman Brian Williams

We can now add NBC and its anchor Brian Williams to the growing list of cable/broadcastnetworks and hosts who should never be allowed to handle a presidential debate.  Williams’ cowardly performance last night at the latest GOP shamefest was beyond embarrassing; it should be career ending.

The execs at NBC had no doubt watched Newt Gingrich bully the hapless John King last week after the CNN host foolishly framed a question about Newt’s moral hypocrisy and lack of human empathy as though it were an opportunity for a serial wife beater to punish an exwife again.  And despite David Gergen’s consoling, CNN still doesn’t get what he did wrong.

One lesson might have been, you’ll need to think harder than the goofs at CNN about what you’re trying to get at, rather than walk right into the predictable buzz saw of conservative victimhood.  But you still have to get to the issue.

The belief that it’s the liberal media’s fault that today’s conservatism is terrible when put into practice and its advocates are worse defines the modern GOP’s reaction when presented with facts inconsistent with their alternate universe view of reality.  Instead, NBC’s execs thought and thought and thought and concluded that the best policy would be to hide in the corner and hope the bully would not do what bullies do:  humiliate their anchor (really!!) as much as Gingrich shamelessly humiliated CNN’s.

NBC’s cowardice was evident from Brian Williams’ first question to the last.  Too many questions were at the intellectual level of, “why are you such a wonderful person?”  or “list the things you’ve done to make the conservative movement so intellectually coherent.”  That cowering was interrupted only briefly when reporters from NBC’s cohosts were allowed to ask a couple of questions about Cuba and immigration, but alas, neither questioner was allowed a follow up, so the topics were simply dismissed with fog and demagoguery.  We never learned that the folks on that stage would happily dismantle Medicare and undermine Social Security, while cheerfully taking food stamps out of the hands to mouths of people otherwise in abject poverty.

Earth to media: you’re under assault.  the bully and the people cheering on the bully are authoritarians who would smash the First Amendment in a heartbeat.  The bully on that stage wants to blame you for the failures of their own policies, the viciousness of their own statements, the hypocrisy of their own lives and the dishonesty of their mind-numbing campaigns.

It’s not your job, NBC, to cower in the corner to avoid getting beat up by bullies. You represent the American people’s belief in democracy and accountability.  It’s your job to confront the bullies with their lies, their hypocrisy, their viciousness and every other matter that might question their qualifications for office.  And if you can’t do that, then you’re just the bully’s pimps.

Photo: lev radin /

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley