When NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted last week that a story he had told about taking enemy fire during a visit to Iraq was untrue, the Media Research Center pounced into action, eager for a scalp.
MRC chief Brent Bozell quickly made his feelings known, tweeting, "Brian Williams has to go. NBC's credibility is completely shot." A couple of days later, on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, Bozell asserted that Williams was "lying about everything" and that "the honorable thing for him to do is to resign."
Bozell cranked things up in a letter sent under his name Feb. 6 to the MRC's email list, showing him in full vendetta mode:
I need you to take immediate action to help us bring down one of the most partisan left-wing propagandists on television.
NBC's Brian Williams shamelessly LIED about being inside a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq.
The fact that Bozell begins with his plan to "bring down one of the most partisan left-wing propagandists on television" before he gets to Williams' falsehood tells you that he doesn't actually care about the lie itself. He does care that he can exploit the lie as a cudgel to achieve a his goal of personally destroying Williams -- in other words, a scalp. Demonstrating this further, Bozell goes on to rant (and, of course, plead for money) in his letter:
Brian Williams's influence extends far beyond NBC Nightly News viewers. He is beloved by the liberal entertainment media and routinely makes the rounds on Comedy Central and the late night talk show circuit.
This makes him all the more powerful.
Brian Williams is one of the biggest Obama cheerleaders on television. This is a man who infamously BOWED to Obama. He is a left-wing partisan who is committed to advancing the Left's agenda.
And now he's been exposed as a LIAR. He has no credibility and MUST be ousted.
Oh, and Bozell wants you to send money to his multimillion-dollar organization to accomplish this:
NBC News is feeling the heat. But we MUST maintain momentum to force NBC to pull the trigger on Brian Williams.
There is one major roadblock to our effort...we did not plan for this campaign and so we did not budget for it.
Right now, we do not have the funds to continue bombarding NBC.
In order for us to sustain our efforts, we need to raise money.
Your generous donation will make the difference between Brian Williams continuing to anchor NBC Nightly News or losing his job.
Then, in a Feb. 9 appearance on Fox News, Bozell declared that Williams has "no credibility" and warned that "neither will NBC if they bring him back" after his self-imposed leave of absence from the Nightly News.
Just one little problem with all this bluster: Bozell is demanding a far harsher punishment for Williams than he himself received for his own history of lies.
It was revealed last year that Bozell lied twice a week for more than 15 years by presenting his syndicated column as being his creation when, in fact, it was ghostwritten by his deputy, Tim Graham. Bozell's syndicator, Creators Syndicate, added Graham as a co-author on the columns, but the MRC, despite a year having passed since Bozell's ruse was exposed, has made no effort to retroactively credit Graham for his work on Bozell's older columns.
If Williams' credibility is "completely shot" by telling a falsehood, why isn't Bozell's? Mostly because he's never been held accountable for his lies.
Both Bozell and Graham have refused to speak publicly about the situation. And despite Bozell having a guest shot on Fox News at least once a week -- usually on the shows of reliable conservatives like Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity -- nobody at Fox has ever asked him about the scandal.
If Bozell wants to set an example Williams should follow and prove that his words have meaning instead of being empty partisan attacks, he should abjectly apologize for deceiving the public for years -- Bozell has yet to speak publicly about his years-long deception -- and resign as MRC president. But he doesn't have the guts to live up to his own rhetoric.
Interestingly, the one time Bozell was held responsible for his falsehoods, he didn't lose his job.
In 2002, the Parents Television Council -- which Bozell founded and served as president of until 2006 -- paid $3.5 million to World Wrestling Entertainment as part of a settlement of a defamation lawsuit WWE filed against the PTC claiming that Bozell used the PTC and the MRC (which shared offices near Washington, D.C., at the time but are now legally separate groups) to falsely claim a Florida boy was imitating pro wrestling moves when he killed a 6-year-old girl.
In his settlement-mandated retraction (long ago deleted from the PTC website), Bozell stated that "it was wrong for MRC, PTC, their spokespersons and myself to have said anything that could be construed as blaming WWE or any of its programs for the deaths of the children," adding, "Many of the companies we stated had 'withdrawn' or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on Smackdown! nor had any plan to advertise on Smackdown!"
Bozell kept his job as PTC president for another four years.
After it was announced that NBC will suspend Williams without pay for six months over the situation, Bozell continued his superior attitude, tweeting, "A suspension for a lead anchor who repeatedly lied, then lied again in his 'apology.' NBC is unbelievable -- literally."
Bozell followed that up with a sanctimonious statement in an MRC press release:
NBC's lead anchor is exposed as a serial liar who attempts to deceive even when he's apologizing for his lies. And for that he gets a suspension? One month, two months, six months, six years. Who cares? NBC has decided that news presented by a dishonest superstar is preferable to news presented honorably by anyone else if it means a drop in ratings. But this isn't supposed to be about ratings. It's supposed to be about professionalism, and ethics, and honesty.
Putting a dishonest superstar ahead of ethics and professionalism? Isn't that what the MRC has done by refusing to punish Bozell?
As usual, Bozell remained silent on what an appropriate punishment for his own lies would be.
Even though Bozell cost his organization millions in damages, he was apparently never forced to resign from the PTC, not leaving until four years later. And despite lying to the public for more than 15 years about writing the syndicated column that bears his name, Bozell has apparently never been forced to resign from the MRC.
Yet, somehow, a liar and slanderer like Bozell thinks he is the perfect person to hold Brian Williams accountable for his falsehood and demand that he leave his job.
You first, Brent.
(An expanded version of this column is posted at ConWebWatch.)