What's the most shameless thing thing Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers have ever done? That's a tough one. There are so many choices. There was the 7/18/07 story on Restless Leg Syndrome which was solely intended to promote Requip--manufactured by NBC sponsor GlaxoSmithKline. There was Brian's 11/13/07 "interview" with Chrysler executive Jim Press in which Brian lauded Chrysler as much as Press did. There was the 1/31/09 story about Lifewater--a day before that product advertised on the Super Bowl (which aired on NBC). There was the 2/23/09 story about how thoroughly United Airlines (a regular NBC advertiser) cleans their planes. There was the 3/4/09 discussion between Brian and CNBC's David Faber in which they desperately tried to prop up parent company GE's falling stock price. There was the 4/8/09 "Making A Difference" story about Jay Leno. There was the 5/5/09 story about the new McDonald's gourmet coffees. There was the 5/12/09 fawning tribute to Cheerios (a frequent Nightly News sponsor). There was the 7/17/09 on-air plug given to the University of Phoenix--four days after that university sponsored an entire Nightly News broadcast. There was the 9/6/09 story on search engines that was a thinly-disguised promo for Microsoft's Bing (NBC is partnered with Microsoft in MSNBC). There was the 2/4/10 story Brian read about Heinz's great new packaging and the 3/17/10 story about how Kraft will be reducing the sodium in their products. There was the 5/14/10 interview Brian did with Sally Field in which he spent 90 seconds talking about her Boniva commercials (which air every night on Nightly News). There was the 6/8/10 story about how Aleve (a regular Nightly News advertiser) can reduce the risk of heart attacks. There was the 6/10/10 story which was a two-minute plug for Chevrolet. There was the 6/14/10 story about how McDonald's and Starbucks are providing free Wi-Fi for their customers. There was the 6/22/10 story that showed Jimmy Fallon playing a Microsoft video game. There was the 160 minutes that Nightly News devoted to the Vancouver Olympics last February. There are the multiple stories that Nightly News has aired about rescued animals--sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's largest utilizers of animal testing. There are the stories Nightly News has done about AIDS, also sponsored by Glaxo--a company that fought desperately to keep low-cost and generic AIDS drugs out of Africa. And of course, there are the dozens and dozens of times that Brian and his producers have inserted gratuitous clips from NBC shows (such as Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Office and The Tonight Show) and Universal movies into "news stories" just for the sake of promotion.
These are all examples of how Brian Williams and his producers shamelessly used their broadcast to reward frequent sponsors. But the absolute most shameless thing Brian has ever done may have been on Wednesday, when he used a "Making A Difference" story to promote NBC's coverage of Thursday's Vikings-Saints game. The story was purportedly about Vikings safety Madieu Williams and his foundation, which, in part, helps provide medical care to needy people in his native country of Sierra Leone. Here's part of Brian Williams's introduction to the story: "He just happens to be a pro football player and you'll see him on NBC tomorrow in the season opener as his Vikings take on the world champion Saints in New Orleans...." And Brian ended the story by telling us that, "Madieu Williams and his teammates take on the Saints tomorrow night." Is there one person on this planet who believes that Nightly News reported this story for any other reason than to plug NBC's coverage of the Vikings-Saints game? Brian shamelessly exploited the poverty-stricken people of Sierra Leone solely to plug a football game. For shame. But it doesn't end there. On Thursday, he continued to plug the game by anchoring Nightly News from New Orleans. The broadcast included a 2:50 "news story" about that night's game on NBC. Brian ended the broadcast with another shameless "reminder" about the game. Meanwhile, also on Thursday, seventeen people were killed by a car bomb in southern Russia and a suicide bomber set off a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia. Nightly News did not mention either of those stories. But at least we know all about the Vikings-Saints game on NBC. Great job, Brian. But wait, there's more. On Friday, Brian spent 40 seconds talking about the game, including boasting that it was the highest-rated regular season NFL game in 13 years. Altogether, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Brian spent more than seven minutes of Nightly News time promoting and bragging about the game. Is this the most shameless thing Brian Williams has ever done? I'll let you decide.