As anyone who has ever done something deeply embarrassing knows, it is not only difficult to acknowledge responsibility; it's also very hard to speak unambiguously about the precise nature of one's faults. In this evidently, Brian Williams is just like the rest of us.
Despite the several opportunities that Matt Lauer gave him this morning to say straightforwardly that he had lied, Brian Williams insisted on more nuanced--and, to some extent more evasive--language to talk about his sin. He said that he came to believe that he "had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anyone else," and it was this that caused him "to say things that were wrong" and "to make myself better in a story I was already in." The problem, he said, was ego, not lying.
We may have hoped for more. After four months in exile couldn't he just say, "I lied. I'm sorry"? Perhaps. But as I watched him speak during the second segment of his Today Show appearance, sweat dripping down the right side of his face, it became clear that he is deeply contrite. Asked by Lauer to write his own headline, Williams said, "A chastened and grateful man, mindful of his blessings and mistakes, returns, hoping for forgiveness and acceptance."
In this morning's New York Times, Jonathan Mahler argues that NBC fails to grasp that the moral authority of the anchor today "has no more practical value, and quite possibly less, than his or her “relatability."
To which I say "of course." One of the main reasons tens of millions of viewers still watch a network nightly news program every night when there are so many sources from which to get news is that there is something deeply reassuring--and sometimes entertaining--about getting my news from a person that could be my next door neighbor. Even in his reluctance to say the damning words "I lied," Brian Williams proved yet again that he's a lot like the rest of us, and that repentance and redemption take time.