Side Eye: Brian Williams’ ‘Thuggish’ Kids Tales

How likely was it that NBC anchor Brian Williams stayed in a hotel overrun by looting “thugs” during Hurricane Katrina? Probably as likely as he was under gunfire in Iraq — as in, probably not likely at all.

There was a lot of “myth-making” in New Orleans during Katrina as the press ran with stories of murders and rapes that simply did not happen, so it’s not entirely surprising that Williams possibly joined in with the rampant sensationalizing that plagued quite a bit of Katrina reporting. But it’s hard to ignore what Williams chose to exaggerate, namely that his hotel — the Ritz-Carlton — became a “gang target” and that there were “young, kind-of-thuggish kids” roamed the halls at night.

The word “thug” has become pretty loaded, as it has rapidly turned into the less inflammatory to dehumanize Black people without saying the N-word over the past decade. As more accounts surface contradicting the anchor’s claims, some are questioning whether implicit bias was playing in a role in Williams penchant for punctuating his hurricane bravado with images of thuggery.

Wrote Hunter Stewart for the Huffington Post:

“(Until) members of the media stop using it to demonize young black men — or, as appears to be the case with Williams, imaginary young black men — the double standard will continue.”

For the record, the story that the Ritz-Carlton was under siege by gangs (unless a few looters easily turned away by police constitutes a “siege”) was debunked in 2006. And while some of the hotel staff had relatives staying with them it was unlikely bands of “thuggish” youngsters stalked the halls at night.