The White House Correspondents Association dinner a.k.a. "Nerd Prom" is the glitziest night in journalism, as the industry's top leaders rub shoulders with Washington and Hollywood elite. But some are wondering whether there will be a table card for one notable, now borderline notorious, name. A very public embarrassment caused NBC to suspend Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, and since then, he has avoided the spotlight. So, will Brian Williams be at the White House Correspondents Dinner? The answer is probably not.
Throughout his decades-long career, Williams has been a frequent WHCA dinner guest. In fact, he emceed the event in 1999, Bill Clinton's final year in the White House. At the time, Williams poked fun of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and cracked jokes about, of all things, then-vice president Al Gore's tendency to take credit for things he may or may not have done, such as inventing the Internet.
That version of Williams most likely won't be back at Saturday's dinner, if ever. Williams has largely stayed out of the public's eye since the firestorm surrounding the veracity of his reporting. Whether that's by choice isn't really known since NBC barred him from speaking publicly. Sources told CNN that Williams has been antsy about getting back to work as he approaches the midpoint of his six-month suspension. But in the meantime, while NBC continues to keep Williams' fate in limbo, The New York Post last week published a photo of a smiling Williams in New York with his wife, daughter, and a man's best friend in a PR nightmare — a puppy.
NBC suspended Williams in February after a Stars and Stripes report accused him of exaggerating his participation in a 2003 Iraq War mission. Williams had claimed his helicopter was forced to land after being hit by enemy fire, a story he shared in public speaking engagements over the years. Turns out, it was a different helicopter that was hit, and Williams was miles away. The incident casted doubt over other anecdotes Williams had reported over the years, such as seeing a floating body in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and being robbed at gunpoint in a Christmas tree lot.
It's probably in Williams' best interest to stay far away from the WHCA dinner on Saturday. After all, the room isn't just filled with his peers. These are journalists, whose jobs are to ask questions, dig into stories, and report on their findings. The last thing Williams or NBC needs is getting scooped at journalism's biggest event of the year.