Who Media Trained Brian Williams?

Andy Gilman
Andrew D. Gilman

Brian Williams' "apology" interview with Today's Matt Lauer has been panned by most reviewers. The criticisms range from wondering why he didn’t say, "I lied," to TV host and Naval Academy graduate Montel Williams calling the interview "stolen valor" that insults U.S. service men and women.

If Williams' goal was to prove that he is ready to be reinstated as the anchor on NBC Nightly News—now or in the future—he didn't accomplish it. If his goal was to apologize to audiences—viewers, military, media brothers and sisters—he fell short of the task.

The media staging and strategy was obvious: Do one hard-hitting interview and pivot to the future. This interview didn't move the needle.

As a media trainer, I'm OK with not confessing, "I lied."  In today's social media world, those two words would haunt him forever.  However, it would have been OK to "apologize" or say, "I should have been more truthful."

What made this interview fall apart was shirking responsibility and blaming his own ego, as if that was a separate entity from his brain and mouth. Whoever developed this message should go back to message credibility school. When you are a network TV anchor, there are precious few excuses for what you say at the network desk or in any other public forum.

As I told The New York Times, the anchor chair doesn’t belong to Brian or any other person. It belongs to the network.

Andrew D. Gilman is chief executive of CommCore Consulting. Folow him on Twitter: @agilman