NBC's Williams Fawns: Emanuel Brothers 'May Be America's Jewish Kennedys'

In an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his two brothers, Hollywood agent Ari and bioethicist Zeke, on Friday's NBC Rock Center, anchor Brian Williams sounded like an adoring fan as he described the prominent family: "Theirs is, after all, a unique American story....It was an unusual family, intellectually rigorous, boisterous, physical, hyper-successful, they may be America's Jewish Kennedys. Their mother marched on Washington and took them to hear Dr. King speak in Chicago." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

On Friday's Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie billed the upcoming segment as "an American success story times three." Williams kept that theme going as he proclaimed: "We're pretty sure they are the most prominent three brothers from any one family in public life in America today....In most families, you hear parents talk about the kid who grew up to be the successful one, or the smart one, or the famous one. But in this family, that's all of them."

Williams cheered each brother in turn:

> Perhaps the most blindingly smart of the three of them is the author, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a bioethicist, educated at Amherst, Oxford, a Harvard M.D. and Ph.D.

> Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago. He's also been the White House chief of staff under President Obama, a member of Congress from Illinois, and special counsel to President Clinton in the White House. He is famously profane, enormously confident, he speaks and moves fast.... He is trained in ballet and actually moves like a dancer, it's more of a glide than a walk.

> Which brings us to the third brother, Ari. He struggled with dyslexia and hyperactivity as boy, which maybe had something to do with the name of the firm he founded later in life, Endeavor....He is a Hollywood super agent whose clients include Justin Timberlake, Oprah Winfrey, and Ben Affleck, for starters.

Despite the interview being an obvious puff piece, Ari Emanuel actually had his lawyer send a letter to NBC complaining about the exchange being too tough, according to the New York Post.

The criticism apparently stemmed from this portion of the segment:

WILLIAMS: The Emanuel brothers do not suffer from self-doubt, at least not outwardly. They do not suffer fools gladly, and as we learned, they don't love being challenged or prodded. Ari's facial expressions speak volumes when the conversation turned to his scorched earth reputation in Hollywood, which surprisingly then resulted in a genuine moment of self-reflection when I asked him about correcting anything in his past. What thing would you change about yourself if you could?

ARI EMANUEL: I would have gotten into therapy a lot earlier and dealt with stuff. But you know something, I wish-

ZEKE EMANUEL: Can I just say one thing?

ARI EMANUEL: You know something? I'm actually really comfortable. I've done a lot of work on myself, you know with my – I'm actually really comfortable, I'm really happy. I'm the happiest I've been in a long time. I think I've, the company's in a great place, my partnerships are great, my kids are in a great place, I love my brothers, I love my wife, I love my kids.

ZEKE EMANUEL: I'll tell you, one of the interesting things-

ARI EMANUEL: I'm in a really good place, so I can't argue with it.


Here are further portions of the March 22 interview:

10:00PM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And here's the setup as we begin tonight: A doctor, an agent, and a politician walk into a bar. It is not the setup to a joke. It's the introduction to our first story. It's about the Emanuel brothers. We're pretty sure they are the most prominent three brothers from any one family in public life in America today. There's Rahm, who was in the news just today for the school closings in the city of Chicago, Ari, the agent, and Zeke, the doctor. And you're about to get to know them. As you'll see, there's a lot of them to take in. Theirs is, after all, a unique American story.

(...)

WILLIAMS: And it's how they were raised and what's become of all of them, that's become the stuff of this family's folklore....There was a strong ethos that drove the family, an unmistakable message.

RAHM EMANUEL: Mom's sense that, A, you were here to make the world better, or do – make something – an improvement in other people's lives. And B, you are fortunate to be here in this country, to be alive, and it is not to be wasted. And that comes with both an immigrant Jewish mind-set that is unique.

The thing is also is they actually were able to allow us to hold two contradictory kind of qualities together. To respect authority and to constantly challenge it and question it.

WILLIAMS: It was an unusual family, intellectually rigorous, boisterous, physical, hyper-successful, they may be America's Jewish Kennedys. Their mother marched on Washington and took them to hear Dr. King speak in Chicago. At the same time, most American families might just find the Emanuel household exhausting. And they admit as much.

(...)

WILLIAMS: In most families, you hear parents talk about the kid who grew up to be the successful one, or the smart one, or the famous one. But in this family, that's all of them. Perhaps the most blindingly smart of the three of them is the author, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a bioethicist, educated at Amherst, Oxford, a Harvard M.D. and Ph.D.. He thinks and speaks and writes about Americans' health care for a living.

(...)

WILLIAMS: Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chicago. He's also been the White House chief of staff under President Obama, a member of Congress from Illinois, and special counsel to President Clinton in the White House. He is famously profane, enormously confident, he speaks and moves fast. A few more things to know about him, he lost part of a finger after a meat slicer accident while working at Arby's. He is trained in ballet and actually moves like a dancer, it's more of a glide than a walk. Even when he's about to close the door in your face.
He is the first Mayor of Chicago not named daly in 22 years. And it lately, to his sorrow, frustration, and consternation, Chicago has become the poster city for gun violence. You've got kids killing each other in your city, and that's a big deal. On top of everything else in your life, that goes to sleep with you every night and it's here with you in this room right now.

RAHM EMANUEL: Not – well, yes – really sleep. I wake up, the first thing I get is the overnight of what happened. I make it a purpose, which is not done, never done, I call each of the families whose kids have been victims, one way or another, of a shooting. I invite, when the kids are out of the hospital, I bring them into my office.

WILLIAMS: And those kids, he says, have to feel a part of the gleaming beautiful side of the city you see from the lakefront.

RAHM EMANUEL: And the way I look at my job is that every child in the city of Chicago, when they look downtown and they see all those high-rises, all that promise, all that energy, all that opportunity, if they can't see themselves in that city and their future, I have not succeeded in my job.

WILLIAMS: Which brings us to the third brother, Ari. He struggled with dyslexia and hyperactivity as boy, which maybe had something to do with the name of the firm he founded later in life, Endeavor. It has since merged with the William Morris Agency. He is a Hollywood super agent whose clients include Justin Timberlake, Oprah Winfrey, and Ben Affleck, for starters. And if the name ARI rings a bell, it's because you've seen him portrayed on the HBO series Entourage.

(...)

WILLIAMS: The Emanuel brothers do not suffer from self-doubt, at least not outwardly. They do not suffer fools gladly, and as we learned, they don't love being challenged or prodded. Ari's facial expressions speak volumes when the conversation turned to his scorched earth reputation in Hollywood, which surprisingly then resulted in a genuine moment of self-reflection when I asked him about correcting anything in his past. What thing would you change about yourself if you could?

ARI EMANUEL: I would have gotten into therapy a lot earlier and dealt with stuff. But you know something, I wish-

ZEKE EMANUEL: Can I just say one thing?

ARI EMANUEL: You know something? I'm actually really comfortable. I've done a lot of work on myself, you know with my – I'm actually really comfortable, I'm really happy. I'm the happiest I've been in a long time. I think I've, the company's in a great place, my partnerships are great, my kids are in a great place, I love my brothers, I love my wife, I love my kids.

ZEKE EMANUEL: I'll tell you, one of the interesting things-

ARI EMANUEL: I'm in a really good place, so I can't argue with it.

WILLIAMS: So, remember how our story started? An agent, a doctor, and a politician walk into a bar. Well, the story ends with brother Ari talking about loyalty and brotherhood, just to clear up any ambiguity.

ARI EMANUEL: You know something, somebody crosses us or somebody crosses a friend, they know we're going to be in the trench, if it's appropriate. And I promise you, that we're going to be on their side, and it's going to be a battle. And I think that is also loyalty. So there's how we treat people, but it's also, if somebody screws with one of us or a friend or a company, that we will be there to defend it. And that's also how we grew up.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC