As President Obama gave an address in front of this week’s Grammy Awards, I couldn’t help but compare it to my reaction to the Brian Williams scandal.
Despite all the internet hubbub, I didn’t really care that Brian Williams lied. The reason I don’t care is because to me, and I assume to most Americans, Brian Williams is not a journalist. He’s not Walter Cronkite, he’s not Peter Jennings and he’s not Tom Brokaw. He’s a celebrity, an actor, and the father of the hot chick on the TV show Girls who got her ass eaten on the show mere weeks after playing Peter Pan – which was very confusing for everyone’s sexuality.
Brian Williams acted (as a comedic version of himself) in nine episodes of 30 Rock. He was very funny in the role. He also voiced a character in Family Guy. It’s no surprise that he told the helicopter lie on David Letterman, because he’s been on the show 21 times. He’s been on the Daily Show 22 times. He’s been on Jimmy Fallon 21 times.
The Brian Williams I know is a celebrity. If Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America, Brian Williams was a guy I trusted slightly more than Pat Sajack. It was a surprise to find out he’s “managing editor” of NBC News, because his persona was of someone who slow jams the news rather than investigates it.
Finding out Brian Williams lied about helicopter fire made me feel about as deceived as I would have been if Access Hollywood Host Bill Bush announced his hair wasn’t naturally curly. Williams’s entertainment related pursuits cheapened his position as a major network news anchor. Part of the decline in the nightly news’s prestige is due to the shrinking numbers of Americans who watch tit, but part is also due to Williams’s own network running mash-ups of their anchor singing “Baby Got Back.”
That’s not to say any of his extra-curriculars made me hate Williams. In fact, they probably made me like him more. He was funny on 30 Rock. He was charming in interviews. But when it came out that the premier news anchor had completely fabricated tales, and it had no effect on me, I realized that his conduct was simply unbefitting of his position.
Which brings me back to President Barack Obama and his Grammy Appearance, as well as his appearances on Ellen (3), Jay Leno (6), Steve Harvey, The Daily Show (6), David Letterman (7), the CMT Music Awards, Jeopardy!, The View, Oprah, Mythbusters, The Apprentice, Conan, and the Oscars. We all understand that television is the most powerful way to reach Americans, and that Obama often uses it to give inspiring, important messages. But should he really be on television this much? Steve Harvey hosts Family Feud for god’s sake, and he only does that because the guy who played Al Borland on Home Improvement quit. Should Steve Harvey really be hosting an interview with the president?
These appearances are simply not in line with the president’s stature. It doesn’t matter that Obama’s speeches are somewhat separated from the events themselves. I understand that when Obama goes on the Grammy’s, he’s not ranting insanity like Kanye West nor is he a 50 year old woman being held up by herd of half-naked antlered men. But he is occupying a space in our mind between Yeezus and Madonna – and that has an effect on our brain.
It’s hard to blame Obama since he needs to reach Americans to get his message across. But it’s also important for the president to act like the leader of the free world, and not a reality star with Kris Jenner as a mom-a-ger. Politicians are always going to take whatever press they can get while running for office, but perhaps the next president can restore at least the illusion of exclusivity to the position once elected. At the very least, he or she can hang up whenever Steve Harvey calls.