Everyone's upset that Brian Williams called the Syria missile launches "beautiful"

NBC News talker Brian Williams has provided plenty of fodder for criticism and jokes over the past couple of years but I’m not sure if this is really a failure on his part. After I went to bed on Thursday night and the Tomahawks began raining down in Syria, Williams was on the air at MSNBC providing some color (or colorful) coverage of the unfolding events. He seems to have ticked off some folks in the peanut gallery however when he waxed poetic on the missile launches from our warships. (Associated Press)

Brian Williams is facing online criticism for waxing poetic about what he called “beautiful pictures” of U.S. missiles launching during an attack on a Syrian air base.

Video released by the military shows Tomahawk missiles targeted for a Syrian airfield launching from the decks of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday.

During his MSNBC program, “The 11th Hour,” late Thursday night, Williams said the “beautiful pictures at night” tempted him to quote a line from a Leonard Cohen song: “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” He went on to call the images “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.”

As media fails go, this one doesn’t even move the needle as far as I’m concerned. What precisely were people finding so offensive about that? Having spent a fair amount of time sailing around on our warships myself, I’ve seen some of these missile launches first hand. Remembering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a significant show of force at sea such as this truly is beautiful and a real sight to behold. That’s why the military and the media work together to release such images. Nothing wrong with this whatsoever.

This does, however, once again bring into question the decision by NBC News to bring Williams back onto the front lines. I was asking questions about this last August when it was announced that he would be coming back to provide special election coverage. By the time the race was over his role had already morphed into hosting his own show. An eleven o’clock slot on MSNBC is still a significant downgrade from being the evening anchor on NBC, but it keeps his face in the spotlight.

And that’s really the point here. If someone else had made that comment it probably would have passed by with little or no notice. But Williams managed to turn himself into a laughing stock during his original debacle and became the butt of jokes from kitchen tables to late night comedy shows. Now, when he does anything which is perceived as a misstep, the situation is quickly blown out of proportion. And in this case it’s being pushed way out of proportion. It’s not as if he described his experience of riding one of the Tomahawks into Syria like Slim Pickens in his scene out of Dr. Strangelove, but Williams is still making the story about him yet again.

As I’ve written repeatedly, I never felt that Williams’ sins were nearly as big as the beating his career took would indicate. All of his “stories” were just that… stories. And they didn’t take place behind the news desk, but almost entirely during late night show interviews. But at this point the damage has been done and I’m not sure how much of an “asset” he is to NBC News at this point.