The Daily Nightly from NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

About this blog

The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

The week that was at the White House

It's been a rough and tumble week in the White House press room over the Cheney hunting story. Many viewers have written me with praise and plenty of criticism about my questioning of press secretary Scott McClellan. The debate about this story has focused equal parts on my colleagues and me as it has on the unfortunate facts of this hunting accident involving the Vice President.

Let me say at the outset that I was wrong to lose my temper at Scott McClellan. I've worked well with Scott since we first met during the 2000 campaign. Monday, he suggested my aggressive questioning about the disclosure of the hunting accident was a stunt for the cameras. He said this during a morning OFF CAMERA briefing, which undercut his point. Furthermore, I considered it a cheap shot. I said, "Don't be a jerk to me personally, just answer the question." I regret saying that because it's never appropriate to speak that way and because it created a distraction from the issues at hand.

Putting that aside, I do not apologize for asking tough questions about this story. I'm in the business of getting information -- as much of it as possible. The public and I don't always get as much as I think we deserve, but I keep trying. I also try to demand straight answers. Covering politicians, I have to work harder to get them. I have not made any judgments about the facts of this story as it pertains to what happened on the Armstrong ranch. I have stuck to reporting the facts. I do, however feel it's appropriate to push hard for full and immediate disclosure from our country's highest leaders about their conduct -- public and private. My view is, as elected officials with unparalleled influence over the lives of the American people, the President and Vice President owe the public information about their activities. I see myself as a proxy for the public that has raised questions about what happened and why the Vice President did not immediately disclose it. Furthermore, when a sitting Vice President shoots a man, it's a helluva story -- worthy of public notice and discussion. Therefore, I think it's appropriate to question the White House about why the Vice President chose to disregard the President's normal procedures for public disclosure. Mr. Cheney, in my view, acted as if he had something to hide. He also chose to allow a witness to this accident and the White House press secretary to spend three days portraying this as the fault of the shooting victim, Harry Whittington. Wednesday, Mr. Cheney changed course and took the blame. That invites press scrutiny.

This episode was also emblematic of how the Vice President chooses to communicate with the press and by extension the public. It also revealed tension within the White House between the staffs of the President and Vice President.

Yet the debate playing out in the blogosphere, cable airwaves and on talk radio pits the Vice President against an allegedly left-wing, overly cynical, prissy White House press corps in a tizzy because it wasn't the first to know and angry because it hates the President and Vice President anyway. This is nonsense. If you believe an accidental shooting by Vice President Al Gore would not be met with the same press scrutiny, I think you are not being honest with yourself. Have you Googled transcripts from the Clinton administration at the height of the Lewinsky scandal? The pursuit of information at the White House is often tense. We push hard for it. Maybe you think we pushed too hard in this case. Maybe you think there was no grave harm in waiting to learn the facts of this incident for a few days. I can accept that. The way we do our business is not always pretty and we should be accountable for that. I happen to believe, however, on balance, our dogged pursuit of lots of information, all the time, is a good thing. I view the White House press corps as a proxy for the public. It provides fodder for important debates in this country. But then again, I do have a bias: I'm in the information-gathering business.

One final thought. In recent days, some people have suggested to me that the press corps has failed to recognize that this is a sad story. Two friends, one who happened to be the Vice President, were involved in a terrible accident. It could have happened to anyone. Our tough questions and our reporting failed to give that adequate attention. It's a fair point. I do think the Vice President himself helped to give voice to how painful this accident was. That's why I think it was appropriate he decided to discuss it publicly.

Read more from David Gregory

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Weekend update

Email this EMAIL THIS

COMMENTS

David Gregory, please don't throw the baby out with the dish water. We all know Imus overstepped with his usual outragous humor and foolishly aimed it at innocent young women. He surely deserves some punishment. However, with the black leaders and the media steam rolling this out of proprtion we could lose the one voice out there today that reaches the yahoos, hard hats and knucklebrains who normally would not even know there was an Iraq war going on. He gets them to think and talk about politics. We all have a love hate relationship with Imus but he does have the courage to say the emporer has no clothes on. Such as Chaney is a lier, Bush is stupid, Hillary can't win, Haliburton is stealing the US blind, and our soldiers are being shafted in all the ways he demonstrates. He had the courage to say if the people in the Katrina armory were white and not black they would never had been deserted. Punish Imus yes but don't let his enemies use this as a way to shut him up.

You have worked with Don Imus and appeared on his show for years. Having done so, you know that he is a unique individual. He is an old cranky man who is as tasteless as he is generous. With the support he has given organizations he has donated millions of dollars and hundreds of hours. Why is this never discussed?

Hi David
What makes you think a person can't show that they dislike the president. Who ever may hold the office, They are just a person doing a job. They are not a God that has to be bowed down to. I haven't had any use for any president since JFK. They are just an over paid person holding an office they lied and cheated to get. This one now in office takes the cake for fakery. As far as I'm concerned he shouldn't even be in the office of president.
Just my feelings and thoughts on the matter!

Not that I condone hunting, but seriously, WHY are we supposed to care about Cheney having a hunting accident? The way the press taints this administration is deplorable. "VICE PRESIDENT SHOOTS ANOTHER MAN"... as if to imply it was intentional, and he was running around the White House with a gun, foaming at the mouth a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining, peeping his head into the Oval office snarling, "Heeeeeere's Dickie!" Ugh, grow up. He was hunting. And it was an accident. Next.

Watergate demonstrated the importance of the first amendment; a free press is not the problem. The problem is correspondents who try to analyze and decipher every single event they report on. The end result is a newscast with one or two 90-second interview clips with real experts, and the rest filled with uneducated babble.

I once thought you were a good news man until recently. The usual liberal bias is coming out in full force these days. You appear to me that you think you are some kind of Dan Rather during Watergate trying to "get" a President. We all know how the truth played out in Rather. Your attempts to badger and hopefully destroy the President are disgraceful but typical of the "drive-by" media of NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and PBS. Your ideas and politics of destruction and deceit do not play well in middle America.

Keep the faith, David, and try to ignore the politically-motivated bleating of those who would like you to sit down, shut up, and let this Whitehouse, or any future Whitehouse administration, spoon-feed you their sanitized version of any and all events.

I find the apology unaccpetable. You appear to apologize but then go on to justify, in some ways, your actions - you express no remorse to the person you offended.

A successful apology, whether private or public, requires as a minimum the offender’s personal acknowledgment of responsibility for a specific mistake or grievance, along with an expression of remorse appropriately tendered to the aggrieved party,

Apologies for the lack of timeliness here.....but have to say this anyway.....I personally appreciate your reporting, David. It is refreshing to see someone take a stand nowadays. I am only sorry there are not more reporters out there like you. I wish the press had been tougher on this administration years ago. Maybe we wouldn't be in the difficult situations we find ourselves in now. As a p.s., also loved your wit and humor on Conan O'Brien recently. Keep up the good work.

People in your position who confuse "arrogant pretension" for "public interest" have no business being my proxy, therefore, you are fired.

David,

I am sure you get frustrated when trying to get straight answers from the white house - just bear in mind that Cheney was in a real sweat trying to get his "Babe" Pamela Willeford out of sight and still have time to report his misfortune to the press in reasonable time. Also one must understand that the only animal in the world that can cover up its crap better than a cat is a - Republican !!

I cannot tell you the delight felt at you questions and persistence in the WH briefings. It restores a belief that there are people out there who won't back down, who can't be bought, who have integrity and conviction and who won't and can't be buffalo'd by stupidity and double speak. Do not relent. Never apologize. Don't back down.

David, after giving it much thought, I am writing to let you know that I revoke my proxy....you no longer have my permission to speak for me

David,
Keep up the great job your doing.It appears from some of the e-mails your getting, some people would prefer Fox-type coverage of the news, you know, sugar coated, White House cheerleaders blaming the press instead of an incompetent Administration's handling of just about everything they touch!
As far as Cheney's shooting goes, while it was an unfortunate accident, he couldn't even handle a simple press release.He IS the VP, there is no such thing as a "private matter".Just ask Bill Clinton about his "private" sex life!If any of your readers shot someone in the face, it would be news, let alone the VP!!!All Cheney had to do is notify his staff, tell them release a statement about the accident that night and say once they have all the facts, the next day , there will be a WH briefing Sunday and that would have been the end of it. Sure, there would have been a lot of jokes and it would have been the lead story on the morning shows, but it would have had a two day shelf life. Cheney hates the press and thinks he can control everything by spin or just giving the media the finger.I guess to an extent it worked because a lot of people are blaming the press.Unbelievable!!! Let's get back to the real news,Aruba and runaway brides to entertain our clueless masses.This Country really is going to hell in a hand basket!!Some people deserve Fox "news".
Don Iodice
Woodbridge, NJ

David: Continue to ask the tough questions. I must agree that there are so many frustrations with this administration that I suspect Scott Mcclellan is the one looking for a new job just to get away from all the spin in his own head. I say crank it up a notch. Get to the truth about failed intelligence in going to Iraq in the first place. Question the priorities of this administration's lack of intelligence on North Korea. And follow the money on this new port/Dubai thing. Bush is an oil man, though a poor example of one. Cheney is most likely to profit. And check Karl Rove's "architecture" on the ports as well. The American public has been lulled into complacency with the hush/hush of the Bush administration, and we should stand for it no longer. Follow the money and maybe, just maybe the world and Bush himself will wake up to the truth. I am so disappointed in this leadership. It seems like everything they do has a motive in self-interest, not the interest of this country. Do they really think we are that stupid as to not see their own "Politics for profit" mentality? I'm with Senator Frist on this one. It makes me think: China: Favored Trade partner (and now everything is made in China") Dubai: First our ports, then everything else Bush can't properly maintain or manage. Maybe this is really how he plans to get out from under the debacle of New Orleans...let the oil countries dig him out! He is selling our country off bit by bit. Follow the money. You'll likely win a Pulitzer or an Ed. R. Murrow Award.

Let me comment on some comments, David you do your job, for once, it seems journalist for some stations don't even consider to ask the real questions....

1) If you are a public official, you surrender your private life to the public who you now serve.

2) For those that aren't aware, which seems to be many...using a gun (accident or not) and then firing it with the projectiles striking another person is in fact the act of shooting someone.

3) to the guy that claims his enitre gym membership is laughing...I seriously doubt you have 1,200 hundred of anything, including friends...and if you do, they are more than likely laughing not at this, but at your comments lack of touch with reality.

4)This story should of been realeased officially, to the press core, not by a private citizen. I mean if this is the new protocal, stay tuned...Next week, my neighbor will discuss the possiblity of an attack on Iran to prevent them from exploiting nukes, that sounds right?

5) The double standard? Yes, the "conservative right" seems to think that every american is a god fearing christian! They think that blowing up abortion clinics & killing innocent people....is a righteous justified act. Everywhere else in the world, they call it terrorism, hmmmm...no double standards there.

6) Funny how Cheney released his story to FOX several days after the fact. To FOX news, the most untrusted network (according to polls), and who has had more erroneous reporting of all the networks according to media watch companies. They flat out distort, lie, and decieve....no wonder the story went to them in the end. What a disgrace!

7) If you ask a liar a question, and he lies for his answer, he is a liar. So you ask again, but you ask more aggressively, and the answer morphs into a new one, sooooo you give up and accept the second answer? No, liars lie. Its what they do, you ask more and more aggressively until you get the truth. Stonewallin' liars, with blood on their hands, and some from accidents....the rest history will see they pay for.

What you do makes sense, unlike a small portion of those that have commented thus far. I admire you tenacity, and drive. I watch CSPAN sometimes just to catch you and the core tirelessly engaging McClellan in rounds of questions....and never getting any answers. They do not pay you enough.

The one point you touched on that resonates: What if Gore had done the same thing? or what if the roles had been reversed and Wittington shot Cheney?! Then what?! The White House would sure have handled it differently. This is the Vice President, people...all of you who are apologists for anything the president or the vice president does is ok. I really dislike your disdain for truth, your us-against-them attitude all the time. Stop being so defensive and take responsibility. That's what this whole Cheney thing is about: that is, is this an open society or not. Like the bumper sticker says: "Minds are like parachutes: they work best when they are open."

Good work David!! Someone has to force this administration to answer the questions!

GO! DAVID GO! Without thoughtful reports like you we would still be in the dark. When a government official begins to think they are above the law we depend on you and your fellow members of the press corps to keep us informed. Much thanks to you for your integrity!

Sir, I revoke my proxy. You no longer have the right to ask questions for me.

Gregory is making material for Imus' morning show. Now he will call in and be patted on the head and called a good boy.

In reading these venerable quotes regarding this White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, I have flashbacks of Ron Ziegler being pulled by his mentor and President Nixon on video to extricate Mr. Nixon from the distasteful mob in Caraucas, Venenzuela. Now, magnify that embarrassing situation tens of thousands of times with this group of Bush administration personnel, headed by Scott McClellan, who have to come out day after day to put a positive spin, any spin, on this corrupt and corroded administration. And I thought Ron Ziegler, rest his soul, had a bad day in that one incident. But Scott McClellan has to do this day after day. Perhaps this is one of those circles of hell Dante spoke of in his Inferno, this one occupied by ex-Press Secretaries and their hordes. Imagine what McClellan will be doing in the years following this despicable Bush administration is over. There may be a position for Lap Dog available!

Regarding this weekend's article by Steven Thomma of Knight Ridder on how the White House is "playing" the media, has an administration ever scheduled a press conference that was boycotted by the media because they knew they could not get candid and truthful information. I have this fantasy of Scott McClellan approaching the podium in the briefing room with no one present except for the Fox correspondents.

Typical city/country dichotomy. For most city dwellers the story is "VP shot somebody". For those in the country, it's "VP in hunting accident". There is a HUGE difference between the two. If you don't understand that (as is true of 99.9% of reporters - not your fault, you guys don't hunt and hate guns), you can't understand why a guy like Cheney didn't see this as an issue. And those of us who DO understand hunting and its hazards are rightly critical of the PRESS for their inability to treat this as something different from a drive by shooting. One more proof that the press is biased and increasingly irrelevant (Hint, hint: there's a link between the two.)

Is the press core concerned about WH access? Is that the reason why the President does not have to answer tough questions? As an American, I am really disappointment that the President and VP claim to be able to fight the war on terror wwhile dividing this country. Doesn't it make he country weaker instead stronger?

Comments for this entry have been closed

TRACKBACKS

Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do not appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d8345a85ae69e2

What is Really News? As seems so often the case, the news on the shooting accident in which Vice-President Cheney accidentally shot a friend while hunting has become a story about the story. Were now spending our time talking about how the news was collected, and w...

Posted on Feb 18, 2006 1:15:39 PM at: Threads from Henry's Web

They Can Dish It Out, But They Sure Can't Take It! They can dish it out, but they sure can’t take it! It’s almost funny to watch the familiar scenario unfold, but it happens often enough to be an old joke. Liberals and the media (sorry to be redundant) attack, criticize, denigrate, and even mock the......

Posted on Sep 6, 2006 10:00:20 AM at: The Valletta Papers