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11/19/2007

Video: Is this NBC News or 'The 700 Club'?!

by Jeremy Hooper

We like Brian Williams. We really, really do. From his usual duties at the anchor desk to his recent brilliant turn guest hosting "SNL," we've always found the newsman affable and able. Thus the reason why this clip really bothers us:

WHAAAA THE HUH??? "In an era where marriage is under attack"?! Really, Brian?! Because we're pretty sure that sort of terminology is less the stuff of balanced journalism and more that of far-right, social conservative code-wording. And even if the gays are not the specific destructive force to which Williams or his writer are referring in this intro, the hyperbolic idea that this institution is being "attacked" is one that is most often associated with anti-gay marriage campaigns. So at best, this was bad news writing; at worst, it's a prominent journalist and news outlet taking some irresponsible rhetorical bait. Either way, we're less than thrilled.

We're hoping Brian will choose to acknowledge this verbal slip-up and nip this is in the bud. We can handle getting in fights with the scrappy Couric or the more buttoned up Gibson. But it breaks our heart to be mad at our little B.W.

Marriage is under attack, Brian?! [YouTube]
**UPDATE, 11/20: There's another clip here if you need better quality.

**UPDATE, 11/20: Brian speaks and now WE sorta feel 'under attack' [G-A-Y]

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Your thoughts

If Williams really believed that marriage is under attack, how does he explain his gentle, fawning interview with the thrice-married, cross-dressing Rudy Giuliani?

Posted by: frank schmitz | Nov 20, 2007 7:20:28 AM

Brian Williams is on the record as saying that he is a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh's. Limbaugh is virulently homophobic. If Brian Williams is a huge fan of Limbaugh's, does it not follow that he, quietly, secretly, is equally homophobic. And let's not kid ourselves, we all know that "marriage is under attack" is pure code for antigay audiences of NBC, which Williams is stoking now that his rating are down. When my partner and I heard him say it, we knew instantly what was going on. Williams and NBC should be forced to give an accounting of exactly who is attacking marriage. How about starting with Rudolph G.?

Posted by: Terry | Nov 20, 2007 11:44:39 AM

Well, just to play Devil's Advocate in regards to the Rush situation, this is the 2004 CSPAN interview portion that frequently gets cited as the basis for Williams' Rush love:
******
"LAMB: I mean, how do you – so much the conservative media criticize anchors living in New York City and in Connecticut for being isolated and never paying attention to their thought. How do you – do you ever listen to the Limbaugh show or any of that stuff?

WILLIAMS: Oh, often, often, and I’m one of the few in a very select group that Rush has allowed on when I’ve called in from the car. 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 he will tell you I’ve been listening for years. I think it’s my duty to listen to Rush. I think Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due because his audience for so many years felt they were in the wilderness of this country. No one was talking to them. They would look at mainstream media and they’d hear sentences like the following: Conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich today accused Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy….

Well, what’s wrong with that sentence? My friend Brit Hume – we covered the White House together, always would call reporters on this. Where’s the appellation for Ted Kennedy in that sentence, you remembers of the perhaps unintentionally liberal media? Why aren’t you calling Kennedy something if you’re going to label Newt Gingrich a conservative firebrand? That’s what Rush did. Rush said to millions of Americans, you have a home. Come with me. For three hours a day you can listen and hear the like minded calling in from across the country and I’ll read to you things perhaps you didn’t see that are out there. I think Rush gave birth to the FOX news channel. I think Rush helped to give birth to a movement. I think he played his part in the contract with America. So I hope he gets his due as a broadcaster."
*****
Now, he isn't really saying that he personally loves Rush; he's saying that as a newsman, he feels a responsibility to listen to him, and he understands that lots of people agree with him (Rush). Yes, some of the comments are perhaps too congratulatory for my blood. However, I think we sometimes forget that news people are not supposed to be liberals in terms of their profession. They are supposed to be non-biased and independent. And it's an undeniable fact that NBC News and Williams is also on-air to serve those who love Rush and hate gay marriage.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 11:56:21 AM

I profoundly disagree. In your excerpt, Williams is virtually gushing over the fact that he is part of a small "select" group who gets his phone calls taken by Rush (just imagine!) even when he's telephoning from the car! Let me tall you something: When Republicans referred to "welfare queens" we knew exactly who they were referring to. When Brian Williams, who gushes over Rush Limbaugh taking his phone calls, refers to marriage being under attack, we know exactly who he is referring to. And it isn't Rudy, who, along with his mistress, went on double dates with Bernie K. and his mistress, while both men's wives were -- where? After all, what's a little adultery among friends? You know as well as I do that Brian Williams wasn't talking about them.

Posted by: Terry | Nov 20, 2007 12:56:49 PM

Terry: As the writer of the post, I of course have a suspicion that Brian was referring to gay marriage in the intro (or else I wouldn't have written the post to begin with). I'm just saying that I don't think the Rush comments are quite the fan letter to Rush's politics that they're sometimes made out to be.

But disagreement is fine and healthy.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 1:00:05 PM

It seemed to me he was talking about the sky-high heterosexual divorce rates. Marriage IS under attack -- by straight people. This was a story about a surprisingly durable straight relationship. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage movement.

-Steve Friess

Posted by: Steve Friess | Nov 20, 2007 1:31:54 PM

Steve: Yes, that is certainly one theory. Thus the reason why we said:

"...even if the gays are not the specific destructive force to which Williams or his writer are referring in this intro, the hyperbolic idea that this institution is being "attacked" is one that is most often associated with anti-gay marriage campaigns. So at best, this was bad news writing; at worst, it's a prominent journalist and news outlet taking some irresponsible rhetorical bait. Either way, we're less than thrilled."

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 1:35:38 PM

You know, the fact that you've mentioned Rush Limbaugh here has caused him to be one of your sidebar ads. Yes, that's right: you're actually advertising for Rush Limbaugh right under "Gay Personals" and "Focus on the Equality".

Ha.

Posted by: Judah | Nov 20, 2007 1:41:02 PM

Sorry guys, but if you know anything about the history of the royals, you will already know that Q Liz's husband is considered by the English press as being anything but monogamous. Who is kidding whom? In short, NBC News did a story about a 60-year marriage that, according to the English press, has been marked by adultery on his side for decades. In doing so, Brian Willaims made a thinly veiled attack on the GLBT community. His ratings are falling, falling, and he's stoking a little right-wing bigotry to stroke that portion of his audience. Perhaps you all believe in the Easter Bunny, too. It astonishes me that people in this country are so politically unsophisticated.

Posted by: Terry | Nov 20, 2007 1:53:21 PM

Terry: I don't think anyone is discussing the merits of the royal marriage. That is a whole other situation.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 2:01:03 PM

It seems like poor writing here. From What I could tell, all Brian Williams was doing was looking for a "lead in" to the point behind the current story, unfortunately it's the same language used by the Religious Right.

Posted by: Rob | Nov 20, 2007 2:10:32 PM

Again, G-A-Y, you are entirely missing the point. NBC did the piece as a shining example of a marriage that "works," and used right-wing antigay rhetoric at the outset to frame the story. What story? In short, Brian Williams used coded antigay language to puff up a piece on a supposedly happy and faithful marriage. Can you not see the point? The story was false, because it is well known that the royal marriage is anything but NOT suffused with his adulteries. In puffing up this phony story, Williams used coded antigay language to frame it. Dude, if you've got thing for Williams, then sorry for stepping on your toes. But the Williams lead-in to his sham, phony story of the happy and successful (i.e., no adultery) royal marriage was nothing but a coded attack on the GLBT community. If you wish to willfully misunderstand me, then so be it. Signing off.

Posted by: Terry | Nov 20, 2007 2:29:02 PM

Terry: I hear what you're saying. I'm not missing the point. I wrote the piece -- I MADE the point. What I'm saying to you is that in terms of the primary topic up for discussion, the story could have been on the marriage of ANYONE, and the use of the code-wording would still be the issue at hand. A prominent newsman uses wording that's popular with right wing anti-gays: That's the story here. I understand that you think the alleged adultery in the royal marriage makes the usage more insulting. I just think it's unnecessary to further speculate and make suppositions at this point.

And I don't understand why you're making it seem as if I am giving Mr. Williams a pass because I'm unwilling to brand him as a Rush Limbaugh-loving, far right anti-gay. Again -- I uploaded the video and wrote the piece; clearly I see possibility for anti-gay work here (be it from Williams, the writer, or whoever). But I also know of people who have worked with Williams who have nothing but good things to say.

So at this point, the story remains for me an irresponsible comment made for an unknown reason. And I sincerely hope Mr. Williams will address it.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 2:46:21 PM

G-A-Y, I promise, I'm not attacking you. If my post gave off that attitude, I apologize. In fact, my partner and I were watching NBC News last night and both sat up when Brian Williams made his remark about our living in an era of the "attack on marriage." I logged on today hoping to see that someone else had noticed what we saw and heard, and would post some commentary about it. I was glad to see that you did and am grateful to you for it. My point, in simple, is this: Brian Williams, NBC News anchor, used what I take to be widely regarded as antigay coded language (i.e., an antigay slur) to frame a story on marriage. (It must remain an inside joke, I suppose, regarding the spotlessness of that marriage, if you can believe what the English press have written about it, at least since the 1960s.) However, I do not believe that NBC News is engaging in some sort of vast right-wing conspiracy toward gays. I do know that roughly 99.8 percent of the time that I have heard the phrase "attack on marriage," it has been used in association with promoting antigay discrimination (e.g,. Republicans and the Christian Right referring to "attacks on marriage"). I suppose that attacks on marriage lead to things like the "Defense of Marriage Act." If marriage is being attacked, then, it must be defended. Maybe .10 percent or .20 percent of the time I have heard the words "attack on marriage" have been in reference to the heterosexual-marriage divorce rate. I've heard of laws placed on state ballots that defend marriage from attack by defining it as between only a man and a woman, and so on. Indeed, it has been placed on state ballots across the country to ensure the Right gets out and votes in crucial elections. Therefore, like you, when Brian Williams frames a story, any story, with those words, my back goes up. I know from previous experience that it is nearly always used as an antigay slur to frame the arguments put forth by opponents of marriage for members of the GLBT community. It gets people to the voting booth to "protect marriage" because in this era, as Williams notes, "marriage is under attack." It is hard for me to believe that a national network, or that Williams himself, could not be aware of all of the above. I agree with you. He and NBC need to elucidate his comments, given the highly charged era of rhetoric in which his comments were made. And, again, whatever your disagreement with my POV, thanks very much for bringing attention to Wiliams', remarks.

Posted by: | Nov 20, 2007 3:49:24 PM

Terry: No harm.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 20, 2007 3:51:39 PM

Why include that sentence at all except to ring somebody's bell? I hate TV news. Its worthless.

Posted by: David | Nov 20, 2007 4:15:16 PM

You were linked in Salon.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/11/20/williams/index.html

Posted by: Chris | Nov 20, 2007 4:41:19 PM

Williams responded on his blog---

http://dailynightly.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/11/20/475843.aspx

Posted by: Anna Rose | Nov 20, 2007 6:50:57 PM

Williams and his ilk have been bending over backwards for some time to appease the far right. Often, these so-called newspeople receive "talking points" generated directly from these organizations.

Posted by: nil | Nov 20, 2007 7:29:43 PM

I liked him too. Certainly don't now.

Posted by: Bernie | Nov 20, 2007 8:43:13 PM

Speaking as a straight guy I have to say that for a "journalist" Mr. Williams needs to get out in the world if he does not understand why invoking "marriage under attack" might raise some eyebrows among those who keep vigil of right wing machinations. Quite frankly I don't buy his explanation because it fails to explain how an individual divorce is an attack on the institution of marriage on the whole and not simply a desire to end one's own marriage. Someone else's divorce is no more threat to my marriage or family than, say, legalizing gay marriage.

Posted by: FOIA Gras | Nov 27, 2007 2:10:26 AM

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