Should He Stay or Should He Go? Few Ready to Stand With Williams

By Mark Joyella 

Among high-profile journalists, few have declared themselves solidly in favor of Brian Williams continuing in his role as anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” in the wake of the Williams’ admission he repeatedly told a story about a 2003 incident in Iraq that was at best was exaggerated, and at worst a lie.

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has stepped forward to support Williams. “I don’t know the particulars about that day in Iraq,” Rather told Politico. “I do know Brian. He’s a longtime friend and we have been in a number of war zones and on the same battlefields, competing but together. Brian is an honest, decent man, an excellent reporter and anchor–and a brave one. I can attest that — like his predecessor Tom Brokaw — he is a superb pro, and a gutsy one.”

Others have been far less kind. On Fox Business Network’s “Imus,” Don Imus and Bernard McGuirk played clips from Williams’ various versions of the Iraq helicopter story, with McGuirk concluding Williams could not continue as NBC’s star anchor. “He has got to go. He’s absolutely got to go.”

IMUS: God, that is terrible!

MCGUIRK: That’s worse than Hillary Clinton on Bosnia dodging bullets. You know? Remember that story?

IMUS: Yeah, but this is way beyond that!

MCGUIRK: He’s a news man with supposed credibility. A horrendous episode.

In USA Today, Rem Rieder argues Williams has lost credibility–the very substance top news anchors work a lifetime to build. “It’s an unmitigated disaster for Brian Williams and NBC News,” Rieder writes. “It’s hard to see how Williams gets past this, and how he survives as the face of NBC News. An anchor’s No. 1 requirement is that he or she has credibility. If we don’t believe what an anchor tells us, what’s the point?”

NPR’s David Folkenflik notes Williams has plunged NBC into a story full of internal intrigue so captivating to New York’s hungry tabloid newspapers. “He is not only the star and anchor of the NBC Nightly News but its managing editor. For many, it is hard to square the dependable newsman with the narrator of a war story that became so embellished it turned into fiction.”

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik was blunt. “If credibility means anything to NBC News, Brian Williams will no longer be managing editor and anchor of the evening newscast by the end of the day Friday.”

Can the credibility mess be mopped up and allow Williams to move on? Insiders who spoke to CNN’s Brian Stelter gave a description of a news division shaken by the story–and the fallout:

Williams has many fans within the news division, but they were mostly silent on Thursday. Others within the news division, granted anonymity to speak freely about the situation, said there was widespread shock and disbelief about Williams’ foggy-memory explanation. One correspondent called it “unreal.”

Correspondents and producers with war zone experience seemed particularly perturbed.

“I don’t know how you manage to begin to clean up from this, or if you even can,” said one longtime employee. “He’s in for a hell of a ride.”

What’s your vote? TVNewser is partnering with PRNewser to ask readers: