The Brian Williams and George Stephanopoulos Upheavals: Is It Human To Err?

Many have weighed in about Brian Williams' inaccurate statements about traumatic news events and George Stephanopoulos' donation to the Clinton Foundation. About the former, research has validated that more studies about the impact of trauma on memory are needed. At this point there seems to be no consistent association between trauma association and impaired memory. However, a post traumatic stress disorder and depression following traumatic life events can lead to memories that are faulty and Impaired (Moore and Zoelliner, "Overgeneral Autobiographical Memory and Traumatic Events: An Evaluative Review," Psychological Bulletin, Vol.133(3), May 2007, pg. 419-437). Cinema has also examined the complexities and contradictions of memory. An excellent example is the riveting 1950 Japanese film, "Rashomon," which explores how its characters recount the same horrifying event in completely contradictory ways. Following this theme, have you ever been to a political or entertainment event and then read about or seen its coverage? If so, have you ever wondered if the coverage read or seen is of the event you actually attended?

When evaluating the Stephanopoulos misstep, it is important to remember that Stephanopoulos rose to prominence because of his work with and support of Bill Clinton, and that many of his later assessments of Clinton, both verbal and written, were far from flattering. Further, during these earlier years he was not only a friend and employee of the President, but also he was a good friend to Hillary Clinton. It has been documented that the reporter long considered entering the priesthood, whose members are expected to deeply respect confidence and maintain extremely loyal and devoted relationships. This confluence offers opportunity to understand Stephanopoulos' faulty decision making: He has always admired what he knew first hand was the best of the Clintons' social conscience, and he longed to assuage his guilt about his assessments and disclosures on his ambitious rise to prominence.

One important assessment of wrongdoing is: Has a lesson been learned? Surely, Brian Williams and George Stephanopoulos will use far more deliberate judgment going forward. Further, isn't it wiser to judge another by his or her full contributions? It is not only human to experience important happenings differently than others and yes, to err; but also forgiveness is said to be divine. One important way to forgive is to understand the complexity of the human experience and not judge another more harshly than necessary -- and then to move on.