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11/20/2007

Brian speaks and now WE sorta feel 'under attack'

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 4-94Brian Williams has responded to the questions that were raised by his usage of the phrase "marriage is under attack" during last night's broadcast. Here's what he has to say on his blog:

I was the recipient today of several emails from well-intentioned people, telling me I was being attacked in parts of the blogosphere for something I wrote and said on the air in last night's broadcast. It was a closing piece about Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip celebrating their 60th anniversary. I noted this accomplishment, especially in this era when, as I put it, marriage seems "under attack" as an institution. My meaning? Our national divorce rate, which is currently somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Others took it upon themselves to decide that I was somehow attacking gay marriage. The simple fact is that nothing could have been further from my mind, as many others easily understood. In fact, one comment shared with me today came from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, who said, "It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack -- by straight people. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement."

Now, we absolutely appreciate Brian's response and believe he intended no anti-gay sentiment. However, we do take exception with his phrasing, saying he was "being attacked in parts of the blogosphere" for the comments. This site was the very first one to post and comment on the video, and we did not "attack" -- we pointed out that the phrase is hostile terminology employed by the far right, and that such probably should not be used in a mainstream news broadcast. And we didn't take it upon ourselves to assume that he was "somehow attacking gay marriage" -- we used the information that was given to ask what, exactly, he meant.

It's very easy to attack the blogosphere as angry folks who are quick to judge. However, we take offense to that characterization, especially when talking about a situation that we still think should've been worded very differently. Even climbing divorce rates are not exactly an "attack" on marriage; the institution itself is not being maliciously targeted in such a hyperbolic fashion. So again, we appreciate that Mr. Williams responded to this. We just wish he wouldn't have done so by painting it as if it was a situation that was easy to understand, if only those pesky, angry bloggers hadn't been so irrational.

...Or Forever Hold Your Peace [NBC News blog]

**EARLIER: Video: Is this NBC News or 'The 700 Club'?! [G-A-Y]

**SEE ALSO: GLAAD's Neil Giuliano has penned a thoughtful response to Williams.

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Your thoughts

In defense of Brian (and yeah, I do find him quite sexy), he did say that the people contacting him were the ones who said he was being attacked by parts of the blogoshpere. He didn't say he agreed with him. Of course, he didn't say he disagreed with them, but c'mon, he's sexy.

Posted by: Mike in the Tndra | Nov 20, 2007 7:33:32 PM

I'm a Williams fan. This isn't anything personal. I just think this was an unfair reply.

And yes,you correctly point out that he quoted the emailers as saying he was being attacked. But that in itself is weird. If you've followed the conversation on this througout the day, it's hard to imagine that he only recieved supportive comments. It seems like the whole idea he's trying to convey is that bloggers were attacking, but reasoned people understood what he meant. Again-- the whole effect seems a little unfair.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 7:58:49 PM

Marriage isn't under attack. It's under reevaluation by millions of people who find it unnecessary, irrelevant and even detrimental to their lives.

Williams wasn't being attacked. He was being questioned. To the right, that's the same thing.

Posted by: burro | Nov 20, 2007 8:20:58 PM

In his actual piece, Williams says marriage IS under attack. In his defense, he tries to say that it SEEMS marriage is under attack. These are two different sentiments. Using language of the far right, which he probably hears daily listening to comedian Rush Limbaugh, and then being disingenuous about what he actually said is not what we should expect from the “go-to” anchorman.

Posted by: seatbelt | Nov 20, 2007 8:40:00 PM

"Marriage isn't under attack. It's under reevaluation by millions of people who find it unnecessary, irrelevant and even detrimental to their lives."

Perhaps, but there are a lot of legal and financial benefits that marriage brings, and my partner and I sure could use them.

Posted by: Mike in the Tndra | Nov 20, 2007 9:57:19 PM

Divorce rates actually peaked in the early 1980s. Why can't we put that stupid myth to bed already?

Posted by: Jefe | Nov 21, 2007 12:14:32 AM

This is the same Brian Williams who thinks Rush Limbaugh doesn't get his due, presumably for some righteous reason.

And this same guy?

GOP pollster Frank Luntz previously wrote that "Williams has emerged as the 'go-to network anchor' because of his brains and 'lack of detectable ideological bias.'" Williams is also a confessed admirer of Rush Limbaugh, saying: "I do listen to Rush. I listen to it from a radio in my office, or depending on my day, if I'm in the car, I will listen to Rush" and protesting that "I think Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due." Williams invited Limbaugh on as a guest several times to the show he hosted prior to becoming anchor and royally referred to Limbaugh as "our friend Rush Limbaugh." Oh yeah,he has some real integrity and is defensible in some alternate universe.

Posted by: Ron | Nov 21, 2007 1:25:19 AM

I don't have any reason to doubt that Brian Williams is sincere when he says he wasn't thinking about gay marriage when he said marriage is "under attack." But he seems oddly unwilling to acknowledge that his wording was imprecise, which it is. Marriage is not, in fact, "under attack." In using such phrasing, Williams is employing the language of the right--thus conjuring for many viewers the right-wing, anti-gay storyline attached to this phrasing. Williams should know better, and it's irresponsible of him to blame the blogosphere for misconstruing his remarks. The phrase "marriage is under attack" does not exist in a cultural and political vacuum, and if Brian Williams doesn't know that, he hasn't been paying much attention. But I think he knows this perfectly well, and isn't willing to accept responsibility for his mistake.

Posted by: Jim | Nov 21, 2007 2:18:32 AM

i am just NOT going to watch that Kathy Curic person, so who else is on doing the news at that time?

Posted by: Puddy Katz | Nov 21, 2007 6:43:05 AM

I regret that Williams did not have the courage to stand by his remark. Marriage is under attack by those who simply do not understand the natural intent of marriage. Of course, just by writing those words, I invite attack by gay rights advocates. That's sad but OK because all members of society need to know that marriage, ideally, is one man, one woman until one of the parties dies. The promotion of anything else injures society in that members of society might be taught that two women and one man or three men and one woman and gay marriage constitute a marriage.

A thoughtful person can see that my objection to gay marriage is not anti-gay per se, it is opposed to all combinations other than one man and one woman.

In a site like this, many readers will literally jump at the chance to say that I "hate" gay people. I admit that that is an excellent attempt to put me on the defensive, that the subject is suddenly changed from the principled position I took into whom I "hate." Nevertheless, members of society need to know that a great many principled people value this argument and will object to all other forms of marriage until they take their last breath.

Posted by: Bill Carson | Nov 21, 2007 9:16:36 AM

"Of course, just by writing those words, I invite attack by gay rights advocates."

That is the sort of thought that has so thoroughly muddied this whole marriage debate. Those opposed to gay marriage have presented it as if they are on the defensive, rather than the offensive.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 21, 2007 9:21:58 AM

"Marriage is under attack by those who simply do not understand the natural intent of marriage. . . . [A]ll members of society need to know that marriage, ideally, is one man, one woman until one of the parties dies."

Two things:

In what way does marriage, the very epitome of social relationship and defined variously within the history of human culture, have a "natural intent"? (How can a social contract, OR nature, have intent, anyway?) Throughout human history, the clearest intent of marriage, as articulated by the social contracts (legal documents, kinship relationships) that define it, is to secure and distribute wealth and property (including women themselves) among families AND to avoid inbreeding.

If you are basing the authority of marriage on how it occurs "naturally," do you mean how it is actually found to be practiced among human populations? If so, then you need to recognize that the most common "naturally" occuring form of marriage throughout the whole of human history is polygamy.

If you don't think polygamy is "natural," look to the natural world. Would you like to compare the number of life-long pair bonding relationships among animal species to those that mate with any available, fertile member?

Is there anything less "natural" than monogamy? It's not even what humans "naturally" want to do. It needs a heavy social support to be viable, and what Williams, and the poster above, seem to be lamenting is that we as individuals in a society are choosing to soften our support for this one form of family building.

It's called social change, guys. Oh, and the individual pursuit of happiness. One's inevitable, the other is a core American philosophy. Look into it.

Posted by: Dash | Nov 21, 2007 11:06:36 AM

If Brian Williams is a closet conservative or Republican, he could still remain inclusive at the same time. If the segment was about the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II, then Brian or his news writers should of came up with a different headline for his story. Everlasting Marriage?

Posted by: Matt from California | Nov 21, 2007 12:14:31 PM

What is the "natural intent of marriage," Bill Carson?

I don't see that in your comment.

I imagine it has something to do with children. If so, that might nullify my heterosexual marriage, as I am unable to have children.

What do you recommend?

Posted by: Jade Cichy | Nov 21, 2007 2:32:23 PM

I don't buy it. Saying America is "under attack" indicates soomeone or some thing is attacking it. How are people who get a divorce "attacking" marriage? Saying marraige is "under attack" from the gay and lesbians has been the go to sound byte for right wing anti gay groups for years. Years. I have never heard people referring to, all respect to Brains unnanmed and anonymous "member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association", Divorce rates equaling it to being "under attack".

Posted by: Ed | Nov 21, 2007 4:13:00 PM

Since divorce rates differ considerably between regions and states in the U.S., perhaps Mr. Williams can devote a segment documenting this variance and attempting to explain it.

Leaving aside the obvious outlier of Nevada, divorce rates are lowest in Massachusetts (and D.C.) and highest in Arkansas.

Pray tell: what can the people in Arkansas learn about the values of marriage from Massachusetts? Whatever the examples, the answer is: A LOT!

Posted by: Jamesaust | Nov 21, 2007 8:27:23 PM

He doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt at all--if he actually meant because of sky-high divorce rates or other reasons like that, he would have said so. There's only ever one rationale for using the same exact terms as the rightwing does. And no one anywhere uses the words "marriage under attack" to describe divorce or adultery.

(And, of course, the couple being spoken of has had their own cheating and are in no way any good representative of marriage--the Queen's husband was notorious when he was younger and it's well documented.)

Posted by: amberglow | Nov 21, 2007 11:05:38 PM

The assertion that marriage is under attack begs the question, "By whom?" Mr. Williams never answers that question, so we're supposed to round up the usual suspects.

I'm getting so tired of this game.

Posted by: Eric | Nov 22, 2007 11:18:43 AM

There are some words that are used when the meaning or definition is not really known. This is just such a situation. The word is putz as in; Brian Williams is a Putz. As I have already acknowledged I can not rightly say what Putz means. However, listening to both his(Brians)newscast and his weenie response, the word Putz just seems to be apprapo.
footsore

Posted by: footsore | Nov 23, 2007 12:14:11 AM

As pointed out in the comment above, William's response to those complaining about his "marriage is under attack" comment suggests that the broadcast included stated that marriage "seems" to be under attack, when what it really said was that "marriage is under attack." Thus Williams seems to be trying to minimize the position of those who took issue with the phrasing in the broadcast, and also he misquotes himself, both of which seem to add to rather than amend the original problem.

As others have also pointed out, a professional with the experience Williams has should be aware both of the power of a particular phrase, and the power and history of that particular phrase ("marriage is under attack") so at best, his use of that phrase does seem incompetent, and, at worst, malicious.

Lastly, also pointed out by others, divorce rates might be rising, and marriage rates might be falling, but this does not constitute an attack, but merely reports statistics. Each of these points, to me, suggest that Williams still has more to explain, and perhaps apologize for, beyond his recent reply, which seemed to me more of an excuse/dismissal rather than a true understanding of the situation he created by use of the phrase in the broadcast.

Posted by: trey | Nov 24, 2007 1:24:02 AM

Yea, I caught that too, Trey (and seatbelt). The thing that bothered me about the whole response is that it seemed like damage control, not like an honest concern for the situation. And in that damage control, he didn't seem at all concerned with the feelings of those who were offended by the phrase.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 24, 2007 8:38:45 AM

Another bit I find offensive is Brian's mention that the cited supportive comment comes "from a respected member of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association." It seems to be an attempt to lend legitimacy to the quote while discrediting the questions raised by the online community. And personally I (an NGLJA member who has managed to earn respect from more than a few individuals) find it to be yet another unfair point in a mostly unfair reply.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 25, 2007 5:51:29 PM

The word used tells the story, do Divorcing couples ATTACK Marriage, of course not. So, who is attacking Marriage?

It's a bullshit excuse for poor wording from a Journalist who knows what words he's using!

Posted by: Hawk | Nov 26, 2007 2:58:32 PM

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