Veteran news anchor Brian Williams is taking heat after his comments over the protests that erupted into riots in several major cities across the country last week and continued into the weekend. Williams, the chief anchor on MSNBC and frequent target of President Donald Trump, was speaking over footage of a car that had been burned during one of the protests.
"This is going from a protest movement to something closer to nihilism, it seems to me," Williams said, as CNN's Brian Stelter noted on Twitter. The response drew quite a bit of ire online, including The Brooklyn Institute's Pat Blanchfield. Quote-tweeting Stelter, Blanchfield slammed William's response. Particularly after citing the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent U.S. response, along with staggering unemployment and the frequent death of minorities at the hands of police, the latter of which sparked the protests in the first place.
imagine being in a country of 100,00 COVID fatalities that is dead set on "reopening," where millions of unemployed are left to starve while corporations get handouts, and where police commit murders in broad daylight, and then seeing a burning car and saying "this is nihilism" https://t.co/PasVoXbSR7— inverted vibe curve: burgertown must be defended (@PatBlanchfield) June 1, 2020
As Blanchfield (and several others) pointed out, the comments were seen as particularly tone-deaf given the overall circumstances in the U.S., though it's far from the first time Williams has found himself talking his way into the middle of a controversy. Back in January of 2015, the anchor claimed on-air that he was aboard a helicopter in Iraq that was "forced down after being hit by an RPG." His claims were quickly refuted and disproven, and after an apology delivered to viewers, he was suspended for six months without pay. After he resumed his duties, he was demoted from managing editor to breaking news anchor.
More recently, Williams was discussing the campaign budget of then-candidate Mike Bloomberg in March but gave a glaring math error while doing so. "Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. population, 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million," Williams claimed. Though New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay also claimed it was true, viewers online didn't hesitate to point out that the real math worked out to $1.53 per person.