He could not continue as a reporter of the news, or an interviewer who elicits news, because he could no longer report or grill when the story is lies. And in modern America the story is always lies. The 2016 presidential campaign has already begun. There will be famous gaffes, fibs, embarrassments, embellishments. How can an anchor or reporter ask questions when his own tendency to invent and embellish is well-established and a subject of national mirth?
Why did he invent tales of Bob Simon-like derring-do? He was already at the top and he was brave in the sense that everyone who goes to where the explosions are is showing physical courage. He was impressive without embellishments.
He probably doesn’t know himself. Watching the story unfold I thought of a line from the 1974 film “The Gambler”: “They’re all looking to lose.” Everyone who gambles isn’t only looking for the high, the score, the win but also for the other thing they need, the loss, the brush with death, the adrenal jolt of being ruined.
Mr. Williams’s fictions look very much like a form of gambling. They say he was warned, and he didn’t stop. He must have known each time he was telling an untruth that he was heightening the risk he’d be caught. He came up in the age of videotape and reigned in the age of the Internet. Someone was going to find something, and year by year they didn’t. He added to his stories the way a gambler on a streak increases his bets. “The rocket hit a helicopter” became ‘the rocket hit my helicopter,’ the crime in New Orleans became the gangs that overran his hotel.