Episode #36

Brian Williams

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Monday, March 04, 2013


Brian Williams Brian Williams (courtesy NBC News)

Note: In this episode, Brian Williams says he flew in a helicopter in Iraq that came under enemy fire.  On Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 Williams retracted this claim on NBC Nightly News and acknowledged that he was in another helicopter.

As a kid, Brian Williams grew up in a CBS household. Dinner didn't start until Cronkite was done. He didn't think journalism was attainable, but his work ethic and blue blazer opened doors. From White House intern to young television reporter, Williams eventually found his way back to New York. On the job, Williams keeps his opinions quiet. Off the clock, Williams still enjoys vestiges of his youth: NASCAR and Spam.

READ | Interview Transcript

Hosted by:

Alec Baldwin

Produced by:

Emily Botein and Kathie Russo

Comments [40]

boonegrrl from Boone, NC

Interesting to listen to this now after the events of the last week or so. I'm particularly curious about Williams' relationship with Tom Brokaw. It has been portrayed as a not terribly cordial relationship, due to some of Williams' behaviour. But in this interview Williams does not give that impression. Overall, his ego really comes through here--there's a lot of humblebrag and self-deprecation, but it's not without a fair amount of self-aggrandizement.

Feb. 11 2015 10:31 AM
Mark from TOkyo

The thief who stole valor

Feb. 06 2015 05:29 PM
williampenn from Tacony

It seems to be a far-left proclivity:

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
--Hillary Clinton, March 24, 2008
Hillary Clinton has conceded that she "did misspeak" about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire, blaming tiredness for a dramatic description that was shown to have been significantly exaggerated.
--The Telegraph, March 25, 2008

John Kerry's lies about Vietnam were so numerous, they were chronicled in a 2004 book, "Unfit for Command."

Feb. 05 2015 05:46 PM

I bet he is really sorry he said it now....what a liar

Feb. 05 2015 04:09 PM
Janet Halley from Wisconsin, USA

My, my, my...Brian why did you feel you had to lie? It makes me wonder what else you lied about or embellished upon.We no longer have a free press. Sad.

Feb. 05 2015 10:19 AM
JANET DUFFY from Cincinnati Ohio WXVU

Heard the radio show for the first time this week [with Jerry Seinfield]. Absolutely love it - I had to sit in my car for 20 minutes until it was over so I wouldn't miss anything.

Accidently found his MSNBC show [saw the one with Keir Dullea] and enjoyed it so much I dvrd them all. When I went back to watch them I got some awful inside prison show because MSNBC cancelled him - how stupid of them - he's the only show I've ever watched on MSNBC - or ever will. I hope HBO picks him up - I could listen to him all day - HE'S INTELLIGENT!

Nov. 27 2013 12:31 PM
Raj Tawney from New York, NY

This interview really changed my opinion of Williams. I always respected him as a news anchor but I was on the fence about him as a public figure. I have a lot more respect for him after listening to this.

Nov. 05 2013 04:23 PM
kym from oklahoma

you should interview physicist russel targ. he's an expert on "remote viewing." stretch your mind to a new level of openness.

Sep. 13 2013 09:00 PM
Randy cox from Madison, wi

I myself am struggling with knee trouble. I got hurt on the job. My knee got hit by a trailer hitch while loading groceries in a car. I've had knee pain for three years and I don't think I could go another 30 with it like Brian!!!

Aug. 27 2013 04:17 PM
Jennifer from Midtown

It's a good interview, but seriously, hang in for the last ten to twelve minutes or so because it turns fantastic!

Aug. 15 2013 05:24 PM
Ms. Kyle Miller from Berkeley, CA

Warm & Wonderful
Dear Alec,
This program is  better than even you might believe.  It's informative and educational.  But what makes it stand out for me is the conversation is like being at home in my parents kitchen. 
Each interview is uniquely interesting.  One favorite;
I knew I liked Brian Williams. I was sort of a Rock Center fan, but now I'm a BW fan and appreciate his regular newscast more. I hope you will enjoy this platform for a long time. I sure do. Audio is the old fashion future!  Thank you. 

Aug. 07 2013 05:55 AM
Kelvin Reins from Lake Tahoe, NV

Brian Williams represents everything wrong with American Journalism. I regularly saw Brian in New Canaan, CT where we both lived for 20 years. He understands his celebrity more than his role as a journalist, and is like most talking heads on TV that I've met in pre-interviews in Jersey, they sound intelligent because everything they say is written down before they say it. But get them off air and they have no depth or knowledge about much of anything. I don't blame Alec, because you are only as good as your guest, but Mr. Wilson is one of the reasons why I don't own a television and haven't obtained my news from it for over a dozen years.

Aug. 04 2013 04:22 AM
Lhifnek from california

I watch (and listen to) Baldwin and watch Williams, but only someone liberal like Baldwin could perceive Williams' newscasting as middle of the road. As a Californian who had to pay state taxes up the wazoo this year because of this Democratic state's disastrous civil servant pension system, I was disgusted with the way Williams opened his broadcast dealing with the California pension story by slamming California for...trying not to go bankrupt in regards to those disastrous pension plans. Left-leaning-delusion-crap was Williams' "message" that night.

Apr. 30 2013 04:55 PM
John Lee

You can't really expect anything from a corporatized podcast like this... I mean, you may get some sanitized humor and anecdotes fit for general consumption, but the only way to get REAL insight and stories is from unaffiliated ones. Take the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. His podcast is his own, and you'll get talk about anything from masterbation habits from comedians to deep intellectual talk with renowned scientists. It's no pretense... which unfortunately, podcasts like this one here are full of.

Apr. 13 2013 01:26 PM
Thanks4A Lifetime

Thank you for your long and professional life bringing the news to the world. We have lost all the greats and now we have drivel.

Apr. 11 2013 09:39 PM

It did jump around too much.

Are you following a list of topics to stick to?
I thought Mr. Williams seemed genuine.

I thought Alec did interrupt a good deal,and pressured speech is common with ADHD. Use gum and other techniques to prevent yourself from interrupting.

You both seem like nice enough guys though and I love the openness you both brought to the interview.

Apr. 07 2013 03:08 PM
Anderson from NYC

Apr. 06 2013 12:03 AM

I want to like Brian Williams, but he took a step back in my eyes after listening to this interview. He sounded like he was trying to be "one with us commoners" with his comments about his small apartments, meager food rations, and beat up automobiles. It just sounded fake and insincere to me. His self-deprecating comments just sounded planned and premeditated to me.

Apr. 04 2013 12:20 PM
Jane from Boston

I'm afraid I have to agree with the other people whose comments were more critical than flattering. I was expecting more substance, more detached analysis, and maybe a touch of lament as to how newscasting in the U.S. today has been reduced to sound bites, pleasing the corporations and ratings. Someone commented that the interview was "insightful." In what way? I found Williams very smug and rather shallow.

Mar. 23 2013 07:32 AM
elaine from li

Just listened to this podcast and found it so depressing for what is accepted as achievement in news broadcasting. Mr. Williams did not make any mention of the downfall of investigative journalism and the failure of the news media to inform the public and hold our political and business leaders accountable. How the networks are implicit in favoring ratings and profit over truth and substance and how this nation is suffering for it. But hey, the Williams and Baldwin families have a terrific lives- they are on TV and the kids are all fine.

Mar. 18 2013 09:16 AM
Dino Romano

Alec...I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that you can't please all of the people all of the time, particularly the haters. Just keep giving us great interviews with accomplished people that we can't listen to anywhere else.

Mar. 16 2013 07:12 PM
Nancy S Brodhead from Florida

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better than previous episodes, along comes the Brian Williams interview. This piece is the reason people listen to any podcast in general and Here's The Thing in particular. Witty, poignant, warm and insightful, are a few words that come to mind. Thank you are more words. Keep it up is all I can think with which to finish.

Mar. 15 2013 05:35 PM
Andy from Chelsea, NYC

Wow. I'm a writer by trade but I have no words to describe how uplifted I feel after that conversation with Brian Williams. Definitely one of the best interviews I've heard. God bless humility, small-town boys, grit + luck. Brian Williams looks as blueblood as they come so this was a really surprising angle to happen upon.
Best of luck to the Williams kids and to the pater + materfamilias. They seem like good stock; God bless em all.

Mar. 12 2013 03:54 AM
George Myers from The Bronx

In the interest of "equal time" perhaps Mr. Baldwin you might have on Morley Safer of CBS, where George Murray was last known, as a producer covering the CBS 1976 Presidential convention coverages, at least as far as I know, once a producer of NBC Nightly News. Apparently, Mr. Safer of CBS, had a real North Vietnamese intern who used the data he could gather from the news services to inform his government, presumably in Hanoi. I'm not saying Mr. Safer is of questionable character, perhaps it would be good to discuss. Much was made of the so-called "Anthrax" woman doctor from Iraq who studied the only place in the world then offering the course in agronomic studies, East Anglia University in Great Britain. I was digging shovel test in Bridgewater, NJ during that time and watched and read of the whole division of Johnson & Johnson wound research center close over a letter with some powder in it, just to be safe.

Mar. 11 2013 11:47 AM
clive betters

alec,please get back to chatting up truly interesting people. lest you risk jumping the bionic guppy. i really like your work,but not so much on this one.

Mar. 10 2013 09:18 PM
greensleeves from NYC

Rather than authentic, much of Williams' answers sound prepackaged and rehearsed. Unlike so many of Alec's subjects, there's hardly one moment
that feels natural or improvised. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy,
but this was one insufferable interview. 'Quality Hang'? Gag me with a mic,

Mar. 09 2013 05:51 PM
George Myers from The Bronx, NY

Spellchecker "U.N. Chapel".

Mar. 09 2013 12:14 PM
George Myers from The Bronx, NY

News: when I think of NBC I think of Edwin Newman television journalist and author ("Strictly Speaking") and how a cousin, about as old as my dad, George Murray directed "Huntley and Brinkley" after the director was sick, he in the "film at eleven" editing room, had worked for "training films" after a Captain's tour in the US Army in Korea. They liked him. I like Mr. Williams too. Edwin Newman read at Mr. Murray's eulogy in the US Chapel, I was told, Mr. Murray had died in Mexico, where his wife, an Avon executive, was introducing product there. He read a letter, Mr. Murray had to send to his team of investigative foreign reporters in Vietnam, charged with getting the "common soldiers" view of the conflict, that their task after months was cancelled by "higher-ups". My suspicion is that General Westmoreland, who later sued major network CBS for it's retrospective on "body count" discrepancies, he withheld the numbers, had gotten to NBC also.

Mar. 09 2013 12:12 PM
kevin from ULS

"call it down the middle" ? gee brian, where the hell do you drop the plumb line on that one? oh yes,the universally agreed upon objective middle,i get it. not to mention,that that is simply one of most useless vacuous phrases known to politi-talk kind.

Mar. 07 2013 02:05 PM
kevin from ULS

ron burgundy- and in a sad way, perhaps even funnier. talk about inhaling ones kool-aid.

Mar. 07 2013 01:38 PM
Ellen from Scarsdale

Wow, great Alec's style..and liked Brian Williams more than I thought I would

Mar. 06 2013 09:20 PM

Just a quick question from this. Alec mentioned Lincoln, Nebraska. Anyone get the context of that or get what he was going for?

Mar. 06 2013 02:31 PM
Linda from Jersey Shore

Those are recent pictures of both Baldwin and Williams. BTW, I saw Williams and Jon Stewart together at an Evening With", an event held in Red Bank NJ after Sandy. Williams is self deprecating and is great at improv. He and Stewart played off each other well and both being Jersey boys had fun stories about their childhoods at the Shore.
Alec Baldwin is a champion of NPR and anyone who thinks it has anything to do with any corporation REALLY is not informed. (and probably a troll). anyway.... great show.

Mar. 06 2013 10:04 AM

Does it really matter how old a picture is? Brian Williams is a die hard lifer! He will be remembered as such! On the other hand Alec not so much( from airlines, reporters and constant rambling___ it is a shame both are using NBC an outlet!

Mar. 06 2013 09:55 AM
Muslim Listener from NYC

I found Williams to be humble and pretty funny (and yes, he tries really, really hard), and yes, his story is an inspiration.
So what if he works for NBC/GE? You think there's any org in this country that doesn't have ties to a bigger entity with soiled tentacles? Please.

Mar. 05 2013 07:25 PM

A lot of news anchors are very private about their personal lives, and I respect that, but it's really nice to see Brian Williams opening up and sharing his life. This was a great interview, Alec.

Mar. 05 2013 06:59 PM
CometCast from NYC

So an NBC Universal employee (Baldwin) is promoting the face of NBC Universal's corporate news man (Williams. NBC Universal is a corporation previously owned by GE and supported the war in Iraq in 2003.
I love that Baldwin and NBC Universal are using WNYC, a publicly funded radio station, in the most lucrative media market in the country, as their platform.

Corporate media is spilling over into public radio. Does WNYC have no compliance department?

I'm seriously going to END pledging to this radio station.

Mar. 05 2013 05:13 PM
Billy Baldwin (no relation) from Lawn Ghiland, NY

Two smug blowhards. I'll download the podcast so I can delete it.

btw: Why does WNYC use that 20 year old press photo of Baldwin?

Mar. 05 2013 02:59 PM
YarnGuy from Brooklyn

Awesome interview. Williams transcends every nightly news anchor stereotype out there. I could listen to him wax eloquent on car racing for hours. He sounds like the kind of guy you'd want to hang out with. I don't recall feeling that way about Rather or Jennings -- or Brokaw, for that matter.

Mar. 05 2013 01:33 PM

Sorry Alec, but my eyes were sore from rolling in my head on this one. Brian just does not strike me as anything other than a cliche spouting newsreader.

Mar. 05 2013 12:25 PM

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