If you haven’t heard about the recent firestorm of activity surrounding Brian Williams, you can read about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/business/media/brian-williams-helicopter-incident-in-iraq.html?_r=0
In short, after 33 years of being in broadcasting and under the scrutiny of the media, it has been revealed that Mr. Williams misspoke twice and embellished, yes lied about, factual information while reporting the news.
Heck, I misspoke twice today…so far. While I don’t condone being dishonest and I completely understand why people in the public, especially those whose business it is to report the facts, should be held to the highest of ethical standards, I think we need to gain some perspective here.
To my knowledge, Mr. Williams hasn’t intentionally caused physical or emotional harm to anyone and, had he done so, I think my reaction would certainly be different.
He’s clearly tarnished his pristine image and made things difficult for NBC. According to a recent New York Times article,
“NBC’s credibility is damaged by this because their principal news figurehead, which is really what an anchorman is, had some clear credibility questions distinguishing the truth from the reality,” said Mark Feldstein, a professor of broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland, who previously worked at NBC News.
I think much of the general public has enjoyed “dog piling” up on Mr. Williams because they can point a finger at him and say, “See, he’s not perfect.” Even though they themselves can identify with this imperfection, they hold Mr. Williams to a much higher standard and may even rejoice at his fall from grace. It perplexes me as to why some people may feel better about themselves as a result of this embarrassing moment in time.
But what if there’s a bigger, teachable moment here? Since no one was hurt in any way from Mr. William’s stretching the truth for what I believe may have been for “entertainment” value, what if we can forgive him instead of shame him?
What if we can identify with Mr. Williams as a fellow human being who messed, albeit in a big way, came clean, apologized, then moved on to be given another opportunity to repair his good name? What if we can feel better about ourselves by forgiving him?
In my quest for my own authenticity (still a work in progress), I recognize when I mess up, but I no longer hold onto the shame I once felt for it isn’t useful. I admit that I’ve made a mistake, apologize, when necessary, then move on to try to do better.
I for one want to give Brian Williams this same opportunity. Maybe if he explains his motives, which we most likely share (wanting to impress, fit in, keep his job, etc.) we would see that we’re all part of the same humanity, celebrity or not, and we all make mistakes. Maybe if we can forgive him, we can forgive ourselves and ultimately feel better about our own imperfections.