“There are some moments in the interview where Williams says that he takes ownership, accepts responsibility, etc., but despite Matt Laurer’s admirable pushing and prompting him on the “lie” issue, Williams refused to admit that he was trying to mislead people.”
Poor Brian Williams. He just couldn’t say it: “I lied.”
After almost 10 painful minutes of agonizing squirming, the closest he came was: “I am sorry for what happened here.”
Notice, it’s not the active and personal, “I’m sorry for what I did.” It’s a passive construction that distances himself from involvement in the events. It’s a phrase that Williams uses a few times in the interview: “What happened here…” not, “What I did here…”
At one point he did admit, “I said things that were not true,” and in a number of other places concedes, “I said things that were wrong.” But that’s not the same as saying, “I lied.”
There are some moments in the interview where Williams says that he takes ownership, accepts responsibility, etc., but despite Matt Laurer’s admirable pushing and prompting him on the “lie” issue, Williams refused to admit that he was trying to mislead people.
Laurer pressed again, “Did you know it was not true?”
Williams: “I told the story for years before I told it incorrectly. I was not trying to mislead people. That was a huge difference here.”
Laurer once more: “You said you were not trying to mislead people…Did you know when you went on the nightly news, that you were telling a story that was not true?”
Williams: “No. It came from a bad place. It came from a sloppy choice of words. I told stories that were not true…I never intended to. It got mixed up. It got turned around in my mind….”
Laurer: “Did you give thought to going on air and saying, ‘I lied.’”
Williams: “I know why people would see it that way. It’s not what happened. What happened is the fault of a whole host of other sins.”
Later on Williams says: “I said things that were wrong. I told stories that were wrong. It wasn’t from a place that I was trying to use my job and my title to mislead.”
So we have things that happened, unintentional errors, mix-ups, mistakes, wrongs, mis-speaking and sloppy choices of words; but no, “I lied.”
I’m not without compassion for Williams; in fact, I feel desperately sorry for him. If any of us had been filmed so much in so many settings, few of us could stand such scrutiny. To one degree or another, we are all embellishers, exaggerators, and enhancers. If our “black boxes” were opened and replayed, it would not be pretty.
But, as even Laurer said, if only he would say, “I’m sorry, I lied,” people would be much more likely to forgive him. Instead, his ego continues to damage and destroy him by his refusing to name the sin properly and to take full personal and present ownership of it.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
In fact, he’d be on the path to enjoying even more than mere human forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8).
Then Brian would have the greatest story of all to tell, a story that needs no embellishment.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.