NBC's 'Late Night' Host Defends Suspended Newsman Brian Williams as a 'Great Storyteller'

February 23rd, 2015 8:14 PM

Seth Meyers, host of the Late Night program on NBC, was a guest on Howard Stern's Sirius XM show on Monday, when he described Brian Williams -- the suspended NBC Nightly News anchor -- as “very friendly” and “a great storyteller” who has a tendency to “embellish” his experiences in an effort to be “entertaining.”

Stern began the segment by noting: “The other day, you did something interesting. You went down to the 'Y.' I don't know why it's at the 'Y,' but you interviewed Allison Williams, the daughter of Brian Williams.”

Referring to Williams' six-month suspension without pay as “the white elephant in the room,” Stem asked Meyers why he chose to interview the newsman's daughter in front of a live audience.

“It's for the 92nd street Y thing,” Meyers explained. “I'm friends with Allison, so she reached out and asked me to do it. That was, of course, months ago.”

“It was before the whole controversy started up,” Stern staffer Robin Quivers noted.

“But then, you know, I was glad I was doing it, and I hope that Allison was glad I was doing it as well,” the late-night host stated. Referring to the interview, he continued: “This is a thing she's earned, so hopefully it was good to get [her father's situation] out of the way" as quickly as possible.

“So you get there and you say to her, 'Look, I've gotta bring up your dad, OK?'” Stern added, “and Brian Williams has been on your show, right?”

“Oh, yeah, very friendly with Brian,” Meyers replied without indicating that Williams was one of the first guests on his nightly program and a regular visitor ever since.

“Now, come on. Just talk to me,” Stern pushed. “What do you make of this guy? What's going on? It's crazy that he made up these stories. He doesn't need that.”

“He isn't quite making these up,” Quivers interjected. “He's embellishing.”

Meyers noted:

The great storytellers that I know, of whom my father is one, of whom so many of the people I know in comedy. Again, the more you tell stories, the more you refine a story, the more you make the story landmark. I come from a world of embellishers.

If you fact-check stories I told on (The Late Show With) David Letterman, I wouldn't like my chances.

But "you're not delivering the news,” Stern replied.

Meyers then indicated:

The one thing I take issue with is I feel like a lot of people say now: “Oh, this is because ... this is a mistake of a guy who was also trying to be entertaining.”

But again, he was the number-one-watched news anchor. I think we live in a time when people want to see that someone also has a sense of humor because I personally trust people more when I think they're more than just a stuffed shirt.

“I said on the air the other day that I felt that the guy's been punished enough,” Stern noted.

“But do you want a humiliated guy doing your news?” Quivers asked.

“Yes. I don't care,” Stern answered. “It's irrelevant to me who reads the news to me as long as they can read well and not stumble over every word.”

“But if they bring him back, we'll find all out right away whether or not” he should return to the anchor's chair, Meyers stated. “All that matters to NBC is are enough people OK with it for it to work again?”

Quivers then asked Meyers: “Did you do any jokes about it?”

When the late-night host answered “No,” Stern leaped in: “Does that trouble you because you can't joke” about “a major story? Has NBC said to you: 'Lay off it now?'”

“We never hear from NBC on stuff like that,” Meyers added before stating he has personal reasons not to tell jokes about Brian or Allison Williams:

It would be a lot harder for me, and again, … there are good jokes to be made. Don't get me wrong, but when it's somebody you know, that you personally trust, that you personally believe in, then you give them the benefit of the doubt.

“I felt bad for Allison Williams when you interviewed her,” Stern noted. “I mean, it's not her cross to bear, but I guess it is because it's her dad.”

“The only thing I'll say is ... that family is incredibly close, they're incredibly loving.” Meyers concluded. “I think Allison was delighted -- that's probably not the right word -- I think she was very happy to have a chance to say how she was feeling.”

It's probably easier to be sympathetic regarding someone from the same network. Still, it's pretty rare to find a person who's willing to go to bat for someone who's enduring hard times.