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Baldwin, who spent seven years starring on NBC’s 30 Rock, theorized that the suspended anchor exaggerated his experience in Iraq as a way to appeal to NBC Nightly News‘ “pro-military, conservative” audience.
Williams was suspended by NBC News on Tuesday for six months after it emerged that he told a false account about a 2003 incident in Iraq. Although he claimed the Chinook helicopter that he was riding in was hit by enemy fire, it emerged that he was in a helicopter that was an hour behind the one that got hit.
“Brian fell even unconsciously victim to something, which was wrapping himself in the flag and in the glory of the military to please his audience,” Baldwin said, adding that he thinks the NBC Nightly News viewers are a “very pro-military, conservative crowd.”
Baldwin, acknowledging that “this is a big swing I’m taking here,” went on to argue that he could observe Williams performing when he said that he was in a helicopter that came under fire.
“I see his language and I see the way he plays it out, and I try to understand people as an actor, like what they’re going through,” he said. “And I thought, ‘He’s trying to communicate to people here. He’s trying to tell them something.’ “
Stephanopoulos, who currently serves as ABC News’ chief anchor, declined to speculate about why Williams said something that turned out not to be true, but he did say, “I don’t think I would do what he did, in that case.”
He also wondered how Williams’ comments made their way “into the broadcast.”
“I’m surprised. I didn’t quite understand how it got into the broadcast,” he said. “You know, we all are surrounded by big teams. And that was a little bit surprising.” He added that while he’s “not friends” with Williams, he sees him around and likes and respected him.
He did point out that Williams’ situation is a reminder of how quickly people’s fortunes can change.
“One of the cautionary tales of the whole Brian Williams episode is: We all make mistakes, and you realize it can go like that,” Stephanopoulos said.
Listen to Baldwin’s full interview with Stephanopoulos below. The discussion about Williams begins around the 32-minute mark.
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