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Brian Williams To Mediaite: “The President Might Have Had His Scenario Off By 180 Degrees”

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was remarkably candid in respectfully rebuking President Obama‘s criticism of the media in an exclusive interview with Mediaite from the Gulf Coast. Just earlier in the week Williams had been compared to news legend Walter Cronkite, and this is sure to draw further parallels to the shifting tide of public opinion regarding the Gulf Oil spill.

As journalists make their way down to cover the growing oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf Coast, we’ll talk to them here at Mediaite for a new series, “Live From The Spill.” Our first interview came yesterday with Williams, who is currently anchoring from the region. We talked about who’s to blame, the media’s response, comparisons to Katrina and more.

Below you can listen to the entire BlogTalkRadio podcast, which occurred yesterday at 5:15pmET. We’ll have more “Live From The Spill” podcasts coming. Williams had just returned from reporting a story for the Nightly News that evening.

Here are a couple key exchanges, with the full interview after:

(1:55) Mediaite: You returned to the gulf region this week after about four weeks from the last time you were there.What do you see as one of the biggest changes in the time that you’ve been away?

Williams: It was May 3, I guess, when we arrived last time. I’m compelled by pride to point out I think this is something like our 16th trip to this region as a broadcast. And it seemed so innocent looking back on that trip. We didn’t know – the slick was much smaller, we knew this time bomb was coming, I never dreamed we’d still be talking about an even healthier flow of oil into the water, and I never dreamed that we’d be in Grand Isle, looking out at – I’m looking right now at the water line, a beautiful harbor surrounding by orange plastic booms. It is unbelievable to behold once you’re here.

(5:36) Mediaite: How do you look at the media now and what they can do about this tragedy?

Williams: …The night the rig exploded I went on the air, it was our lead story. I asked the question, ‘is this going to lead to one of the most catastrophic events of all time where the environment is concerned?’ I got a kick out of President Obama saying that even when the cameras go away we’ll still be there for you. That ain’t the way this is going to play out. If anything, the cameras being here have compelled outside interests – government, BP – to kick this into another gear. With all due respect, the President might have had his scenario off by 180 degrees. So we’ll keep coming back here, we won’t take our eyes off this region, we haven’t since we knew we had a Category 5 storm off the coastline five years ago.

We also talked to Williams about the five-year anniversary of the Daily Nightly blog and the Jon Friedman column yesterday dubbing him “the Walter Cronkite of the 21st century”. And by using that comparison, it makes his Pres. Obama comments that much more damning. ‘If we’ve lost BriWi’…

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