Lies are lies whether they “offend” or not

NBC’s Chuck Todd assures us that NBC’s Brian Williams is “mortified” by the recent revelation that, for 12 years, he falsely claimed to have been in an aircraft that was shot down during the Iraq War. Todd also says that what’s “stinging [Williams] the most” is that the last group of people he wants to offend are veterans.

Todd confesses, however, that he hasn’t talked to Williams yet. This raises the question of how Todd knows what is “stinging Williams the most.”

There’s a good chance that Todd is right, though. In modern America, and especially in news/show business, the focus in these cases will always be on who is (or claims to be) offended. The truth (or falsity) of what was said becomes an afterthought at best.

The zeitgeist aside, Williams has an incentive to cast his problem in terms of who was offended. The “sin” of offense can be overcome by an apology to the offended parties and/or claims that they are no longer upset.

Dishonesty remains dishonesty no matter how anyone feels about it. It can be forgiven as a general matter, but it ought to be professionally disqualifying in a personality whose job it is to provide the American public with accurate information. Even if Williams’ claims had offended no one, they were still a lie, and thus objectionable.

Will NBC view things this way, or will it elect to have a self-aggrandizing bald-faced liar delivering the news? That NBC apparently hasn’t yet figured out the answer tells us everything we need to know about the organization. That NBC reckons it might be able to get away with keeping Williams in his perch tells us much about America today.

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