According to the Gospels, Jesus is reputed to have come across a woman being stoned for adultery, and then stated: "Let whomever among you is without sin cast the first stone." Perhaps Jesus' mother would have met that test, but the remainder of us measly mortals are not quite so gifted. All of those media muckrakers who seem to be enjoying the "feeding frenzy" over NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams' alleged misstatement about his Iraq War experience might take a leaf from the Good Book and honestly examine their own behavior before casting all those stones at Brian Williams.
Having served in his present capacity with NBC for over a decade, and assuming he averages five Nightly News broadcasts per week, Brian Williams has anchored over 2500 such programs, the vast majority of which he has handled extremely well, very effectively, and quite accurately, to the best of public knowledge. I would place him on my short list of top news people -- a list pretty-much limited to Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather. Dan Rather also made occasional mistakes, and regretfully left his post at CBS News under a bit of a cloud, after twenty-four years of exemplary work. We still see him occasionally on 60 Minutes and the late-night talk shows. And many of us still miss Dan Rather, and his news reports and commentaries.
Whether Brian Williams apparent-misstatements about which helicopter he was on while covering the Iraq War twelve years ago -- the one which was hit by enemy fire, or the one behind that one, or the one which arrived a few minutes later -- are the result of mis-remembering a combat-related event, or whether he puffed up his wartime news coverage, matters little to me. Those who have never been in combat cannot accurately judge all of its impacts, but I did have a friend whose Vietnam War experiences caused him to wake up on night to find his hands around his wife's throat. PTSD and war flashbacks are all too real, and the shabby VA medical treatment returning combat veterans receive is all too shameful.
Still, and even conceding that Brian Williams may have puffed up his wartime experience in this instance, he is far from alone. Truth to tell, many of us mere mortals enhance our resumes and biographies a bit, adding somewhat to our qualifications. I am not referring to those who add unearned degrees or major jobs which they never even held. Rather (with no reference to Dan) there are the nearly-infinite ways in which we strive to make ourselves seem a bit better qualified than is actually the case.
My favorite example of that type of puffing occurred during my tenure with the 1960s War Against Poverty, a noble effort beginning with JFK and passed into law during Lyndon Johnson's term as President. At the community action agency I headed in Binghamton, New York, it was common practice for some staff to "puff up their poverty." These people could go on for hours about how poor they had been, how deprived their childhoods were, and how miserably they were still living. One major "puffer" was married to an IBM executive and lived in Vestal, the high-end gentrified suburb across the river from Binghamton; she never entertained agency folks, as that would have blown her cover, according to those who knew her well.
Then, there is the immense volume of "hot air" floated in The Cloud and on the Internet today. People on dating web sites often take a few years off of their actual ages and a few pounds off of their waistlines, add a few qualifications which they do not possess, and enhance some of their life experiences to make themselves appear more interesting. This has become so widespread that a regular TV series is devoted to exposing the escapades of social media and dating site "puffers" whose many fascinating exploits exist only in their minds and on their web pages -- and, if their deceptions are successful, in the minds of their fellow Facebook Friends and Twitter Tweeters.
Before throwing those First Stones, those judging newsman Brian Williams so harshly need to look into their own hearts and their own behavior. It may be satiric fun to post faked ephotos of Brian riding in O.J. Simpson's Bronco during that infamous slow-speed chase, or covering Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, or even helping Moses to carry the Ten Commandments down that mountain. It may be fun, but ultimately all of these are cheap shots -- not only at Brian's expense, but at the hypocrites' own expense as well. Attempts to degrade others often backfire. What goes around indeed usually comes around, particularly upon all those Stone-casters.