“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48
It’s been a surreal few days to see how quickly the face of NBC News has fallen from his pedestal atop the news world. Much more than a newscaster, Williams was a quasi-entertainer with his comedic timing and constant presence on the talk show scene. He was about as mainstream and beloved as a newscaster can get.
And it all came tumbling down with an admission that he misrepresented a war story that happened during the Iraq War. And maybe something he saw during Hurricane Katrina. And maybe something else. And maybe something else. Some are speculating that the six month suspension is merely an audition for the next anchor. Either way, Williams probably isn’t coming back.
The knives were quick to come out in the cutthroat world of journalism (interestingly enough, I checked several news media sites, and Williams’ suspension was the lead story on all but one. Yep you guessed it, NBC News). But a greater question might be asked: why such a harsh punishment for a seemingly small crime? So he embellished a few stories. Every person who’s ever gone fishing has done that. He was the face of NBC News for twenty years. How can that all be discarded in a matter of days? No laws were broken. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Until you realize what Williams represents: truth, transparency, integrity, trust, facts. When he embellished stories, stretched the truth, colored in the gray areas, he undermined the very foundation from which he built his entire career.
That’s why Jesus said that to whom much is given, much is required. That’s why Williams needs to be suspended (and probably fired) even though he broke no laws, even though he did what every other person does when trying to enhance their mediocre weekend to sound like a great one Monday at work. He’s not just any other person. He’s the face of a franchise. He doesn’t get free passes. Much much more is expected of him. And that trust is now irrevocably broken.
For the church world, that’s why ministers are (and ought to be) held to such a higher standard. That’s why a moral failure which may seem pedestrian to most is devastating to a minister or ministry. When the moral trust is broken, it is difficult if not impossible to regain. May Williams’ fall from grace be a warning to us all.