Mediaite has an exclusive interview with NBC anchor Brian Williams on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the administration’s response to the disaster. Steve Krakauer spoke with Williams about both the disaster and the media coverage, which Williams credited with getting Obama to finally start focusing on the disaster. When Obama told the press that the government would be there long after the cameras disappeared, Williams scoffed:
(1:55) Mediaite: You returned to the gulf region this week after about four weeks from the last time you were there.What do you see as one of the biggest changes in the time that you’ve been away?
Williams: It was May 3, I guess, when we arrived last time. I’m compelled by pride to point out I think this is something like our 16th trip to this region as a broadcast. And it seemed so innocent looking back on that trip. We didn’t know – the slick was much smaller, we knew this time bomb was coming, I never dreamed we’d still be talking about an even healthier flow of oil into the water, and I never dreamed that we’d be in Grand Isle, looking out at – I’m looking right now at the water line, a beautiful harbor surrounding by orange plastic booms. It is unbelievable to behold once you’re here.
(5:36) Mediaite: How do you look at the media now and what they can do about this tragedy?
Williams: …The night the rig exploded I went on the air, it was our lead story. I asked the question, ‘is this going to lead to one of the most catastrophic events of all time where the environment is concerned?’ I got a kick out of President Obama saying that even when the cameras go away we’ll still be there for you. That ain’t the way this is going to play out. If anything, the cameras being here have compelled outside interests – government, BP – to kick this into another gear. With all due respect, the President might have had his scenario off by 180 degrees. So we’ll keep coming back here, we won’t take our eyes off this region, we haven’t since we knew we had a Category 5 storm off the coastline five years ago.
I’m normally not inclined to say this, but the NBC anchor has this exactly right. As the OOTD timeline from this morning showed, Obama has been only occasionally engaged on the spill — and hardly at all until his press conference last week. His little sojourn on the shore was entirely for the benefit of the cameras that Obama dismissed in this claim. Without the national media training their gaze on the disaster and the botched response, Obama would be playing golf — er, playing golf more.
Krakauer says, “When you’ve lost BriWi …” I don’t know if Obama has lost Williams, who bowed to Obama last year during an interview. At least Williams has stopped genuflecting, and that’s a start.