It’s August of 2015 and for six months since Brian Williams was suspended, the ratings of the NBC Nightly News have been plummeting. Figuring he is their best hope, NBC execs ask Williams to return as anchorman. Excited at the prospect of regaining his position, Williams sits down in his study to craft a first draft of what he will say on his first broadcast back.
“I want to say that I have been off the air for the past six months because I offered certain misstatements that enhanced my personal role in a couple of events that happened many years ago. Despite some minor inconsistencies in the actual facts, you can be sure that I was basically conveying the truth. My life is in television and my mission has always been to keep the public informed. I want to assure each and every one of you out there that I will continue to make valuable contributions to the Network News and I intend to regain my status as the most trusted man at NBC.” (memo to self – omit any future references to Bill Cosby).
“At the time I was under a lot of pressure. I believe I may have been the victim of false memory syndrome, a medical condition where I actually believed what I was saying, even though some of the Iraqi war veterans flying in the air formation took issue with me. This is quite common in the fog of war. In such cases, how can anyone be sure of what actually happened? Besides even if the details were in error, you can trust that the really important stuff I reported was true.” (memo to self – consider future story on Iraqi war veterans who might be suffering from false memory syndrome).
“You know, all of us have fudged the truth at one time or another. Everybody does it. It’s human nature. Remember Dan Rather? And does anyone really believe Edward R. Murrow was always up there standing on those rooftops in London while the Nazis were dropping bombs all around him? It’s not like I am Ted Baxter. You know, we can’t all be Walter Cronkite.” (memo to self – may want to revise this paragraph, some of these references may be obscure to our demographic).
“Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I didn’t murder anyone. I didn’t rob a bank. I didn’t do steroids and I don’t know anything about deflated footballs. I am not a crook. I did not have sex with that woman. I believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and biological laboratories. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. And one time the dog really did eat my news copy.” (memo to self – careful on that last one. Miss McDowell didn’t buy it in fourth grade math).
“In closing, I want to say that if I misled anybody or anyone misconstrued what I said, I’m very, very sorry and I’ll never, ever do it again. I promise. Honor bright. Pinkie swear.” (Kisses pinkie and pretends to hold it up to camera).
And now the news…”
Williams finishes the first draft of his apology, nods approvingly, and strolls over to the full-size mirror in his bedroom, where he tries out different on-camera facial expressions he might use when he returns with his mea culpa. After half an hour, he finally decides to go with the one that suggests a combination of sincerity and contrition, tinged with a hint of puppy dog guilt, and a faint whiff of indignation.
Satisfied with a good day’s work, he heads for the fridge, pops open a beer, and turns on his 110-inch high definition television. Instead of the news, he opts for a movie. The first channel he turns to happens to be playing “Catch Me If You Can”.
He watches intently as Leonardo DiCaprio strides confidently across an airport, resplendent in his Pan Am pilot‘s uniform. Williams thinks to himself, “Sometimes I wish I could have been a cool airline pilot just like him.”
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