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Posts Tagged ‘Apologies’

Oh Brian, Brian, Brian

February 6, 2015 1 comment

Brian Williams

Brian Williams really is one of the good guys in the journalism business.  Smart, funny, unassuming, a regular guy’s regular guy…especially for a network television anchorman, a category not generally known for humility.

And now his career seems to be threatened not just because of what turned out to be the tall tales he repeatedly told about a chopper ride in Iraq 12 years ago, but by an apology many saw as disingenuous and complete with weasel words like “misremembered.”

Let’s see if we can make some sense out of this because “liar” is just not one of the words generally used to describe Brian Williams.

Rich Krell was the pilot of the Chinook helicopter that carried Williams and three other NBC staffers ahead of the advancing American military forces during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Krell talked to CNN this morning and has a different take on the whole thing than the crew members of the other choppers interviewed by Stars and Stripes.

Krell notes that the chopper Williams was riding in did take small arms fire.  The choppers were carrying bridge parts and extensions that took the brunt of most of those bullets.  And the helicopter was part of a 3-chopper formation that flew together and ended up taking evasive maneuvers after coming under fire.   Krell says the Williams chopper separated from the others as it went off to drop off the bridge extensions.  They returned and the brief trip to deliver the bridge parts would explain why the crew members of the other helicopters said Williams showed up later.

Williams embellished the story through the years.  Small arms fire became rocket propelled grenades.   The three-chopper formation, he said, was a four-chopper formation (Krell says the 4th one developed mechanical issues so only three flew in formation that day).   In various interviews through the years, he has mentioned fearing for his life, which might or might not have been the case with small-arms fire, but certainly makes for a good yarn.   And here’s where we start getting, I think, to the truth of the story.

Williams, like many journalists, is a story teller.  And he’s good at it.  And he tells stories like good story-tellers do; with passion, conviction, detail and 100% sincerity.  Even, in this case, while taking license with the facts.  I imagine Williams is not the first person to ever tell “war stories” that are full of bluster and exaggerated breathlessness, but unfortunately for him- he is a famous television anchorman who happens to be the face of NBC News.

If I was Brian Williams, here’s how I would do a second take on the apology.   What did seem disingenuous about the mea culpa, was a seeming implication that he had told this story just once, the other night as he tried to recognize the heroism of a military man at a sports event.  Not true.  He has told the tall tale many, many times before and there are plenty of video/audio clips of such.   Here’s what I’d say if I were Brian next time there’s an opportunity for a chat with Jimmy Fallon or David Letterman:

“The chopper I was in did take small arms fire. It was not hit by an RPG. I have told this story often through the years and each telling has gotten more and more dramatic…like something you might do at a bar with friends. But I am a newsman with a daily broadcast seen by millions. It was irresponsible of me to embellish like that and I have learned my lesson. Credibility is really the only asset I have as a newsman. And now I have to work very hard to regain your trust. I ask everybody for another chance.”

I’d be quite inclined to give him that chance if he leveled with us like that.

In the future, I would also advise anyone facing similar circumstances to use a thesaurus to find a synonym for “misremembered.”  I don’t think this reaches the level of “I lied.”   But maybe something like “wild-ass exaggerating” or “intense embellishment,” might go down better than the weasel-like “misremembered.”   Nobody wants a word like that to end up being their contribution to the English lexicon.

Double-Down Mania

September 18, 2012 Leave a comment

What is it with this “double-down” culture?  Nobody seems to apologize for anything anymore.  Nobody admits they simply messed up.  They always have to fold their arms and stubbornly shout their offending words even louder.

Take Iowa Republican Congressman, Steve King, for example.  At a town hall event back in May, the topic of immigration came up and King compared immigrants to dogs when he said we should only allow the best of the litter into America.  From Mediaite.com:

King brought up his experience raising bird dogs to explain how the immigrant-dog metaphor works: “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest, the one that’s engaged the most, and not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”

And this is how you end up with terrific bird dogs and productive immigrants.

Later at a debate with his opponent, he did not back down, admit using awkward wording, or in any way concede anything inappropriate about the remarks.  In fact, he said he was actually complimenting immigrants saying that we get the cream of the crop of any donor civilization on the planet and wondered how anyone could possibly misconstrue his words.

Oh, I don’t know, as the son of two parents who immigrated legally, I wonder which of the two my mother and father were.  Would he have considered them frisky bird dogs, or the lazy ones that sleep in the corner?

Former Democratic congressman, Barney Frank, recently called the Log Cabin Republican pro-gay advocacy group, “Uncle Toms.”  When the Log Cabin group accused Frank of going over the top Frank, of course, doubled-down.

Some have complained that in comparing the Log Cabin Republicans to Uncle Tom, I was ignoring the fact that they are nice. I accept the fact that many of them are nice — so was Uncle Tom — but in both cases, they’ve been nice to the wrong people.

Comparing immigrants to dogs and throwing racist insults at gay Republicans is cool now in our “double-down” world.

This has become our politics and our culture.  There is no grace, no moderation, no introspection, no recognition of fault or weakness and there will be no apology of any kind for anything ever said, no matter how idiotic, incendiary or offensive.

You double-down in black jack.  It means that looking at the cards you’ve been dealt, you decide to take a big risk and double your bet but can only take one more card.  Big bet- big risk. The probability of success does not increase and the odds, in fact, are now really stacked against you, but you’ve bravely gone with your gut.

It looks admirable, but those who double-down with increasing frequency should note- most lose double what they started out betting.   In blackjack, you lose money.  In life, you risk losing respect and credibility.

Clueless Newsmakers of the Week

 

Frankly, there are quite a few but two that stand out; that make you wonder if they exist in the same universe as the rest of us.  Clueless Wonder awards this week to Texas Republican Congressman, Joe Barton and Washington Redskins defensive lineman, Albert Haynesworth.

 Joe Barton

In the most conspicuous act of political suicide in ages, Congressman Barton, in prepared remarks at the House committee hearing that featured BP CEO, Tony Heyward, yesterday, infamously apologized to the oil giant for having been forced to set up a $20 billion “Slush Fund” by President Obama.

Let’s turn to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to give us a play-by-play of Thursday’s bizarre act of political self-destruction:

 “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” the Texan said of BP’s offer, under pressure from President Obama, to set aside $20 billion to pay damages to Gulf Coast residents ruined by the oil spill. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.”

Heads of the other committee members spun, cartoon-like, in the direction of Barton. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) froze, her coffee cup suspended equidistant between tabletop and lips. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the panel chairman, scrunched his face and shook his head as though he had just witnessed a bloody wreck.

In a sense, he had. And Barton wasn’t done. The $20 billion BP would pay to those who are now out of work because of the spill is a “slush fund,” he said. Then he did the unthinkable: He apologized to the man whose company is destroying a large piece of the nation. “I apologize,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “want to live in a country” that does such things to poor BP.

There, in front of the cameras, one of the most senior Republicans in the House had suffered an acute attack of Obama Derangement Syndrome. The president had just secured from a British oil company a promise to set aside $20 billion to help devastated Americans — and Barton had sided with the firm that has devastated the Gulf of Mexico.

Turns out Rep. Barton has received more campaign contributions from the oil industry than any other member of the House.  A more loyal friend could not be found.   The man was so clueless about what had just happened that during the lunch recess, as he was on his way to meet with outraged leaders of his own party, he was approached by a reporter who asked if he had any comment to calls for his immediate ouster as the ranking Republican on the energy committee.  From Politico.com:

He said calls for his ouster were “news to me” as he went to meet with Boehner and Cantor. Asked whether he planned to stay in his job, he replied, “Damn straight.”

In the next few minutes he was handed an ultimatum.  Apologize for your apology to BP or you will be stripped of your ranking status on the committee by the end of the afternoon.  

 It is truly remarkable that in about one short 3-minute period, the White House that had looked so feckless and helpless in the oil spill fiasco, that itself, had been so tin-eared and clueless at the outset of one of the worst ecological disasters in American history had been handed such a gift- a Republican villain in the BP Spill story.

Albert Haynesworth

 For those of you who don’t know about this creep, Albert Haynesworth is the highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL, brought in by the Washington Redskins last year and apparently told by owner, Daniel Snyder that he’d be allowed to play the position any way he wanted to.  Fast forward a year and there’s a new coach in town who wants Albert to play a different position as part of what’s called a 3-4 defense.  

He demanded to be traded. He refused to attend voluntary training sessions. The Skins tried to dump his sorry ass but apparently no other team wanted to swallow his bloated salary or a $20 million bonus that was due to him in the Spring.    Coach Mike Shanahan made it clear- if we can’t trade you and you take this $20 million bucks, we expect you to play whatever position we decide. 

He took the money and then refused to show up to mandatory training sessions and this week, reiterated his intent to leave Washington and play elsewhere.

His teammates have turned against him, calling him selfish. The fans, of course, loath him.   He has burned every bridge he had in Washington and now possibly, across the NFL.  And if the Redskins can’t get rid of him, he will remain a cancer on the team for the entire season.

Cut him.  Swallow the losses and cut him.  Let the millions of dollars in losses burn a great big hole in Dan Snyder’s pockets as a lesson to not be such a chump about bringing in high-priced free-agent divas.

Darwinian Theory

It’s called the law of natural selection.  Only the best of a species survive.  Each of this week’s recipients of the Clueless Newsmaker of the Week award has shown their unique talent for self-destruction.  While interesting to watch in the uncomfortable way a gruesome car accident is impossible to ignore, it will be better for the world when these two gentlemen finally succumb to their inevitable fate and become a mere footnote in history.