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Sarcastic Bill Weir on Being a Careful Journalist: 'I've Drastically Scaled Down the Size of My Meth Lab'

Nightline co-anchor Bill Weir talked to TV Newser on Tuesday and offered a sarcastic answer to the question of how to be a careful journalist. Weir mocked, "Well, I've drastically scaled down the size of my meth lab."

He joked, "And I no longer tweet, you know, race baiting comments." When asked his impression of reporting from war zones in Iraq or Afghanistan, the ABC anchor fretted, "You know, the one drawback, and I'm not the first to bring it up, is when you're embedded with U.S. forces, you're really only seeing one side of the story."

Weir exclaimed, "thank goodness" for American troops and complimented them for "literally looking out for your life." But, he also complained, "And that's kind of one of the real joys that I find in this job is when the seat belt light goes off in some country you've never been to before and the door opens and there's new smells and new sights and you can really explore at your own pace. That doesn't happen in a war."

(This part of the TV Newser interview appeared on the website, Monday.) Weir also touted his own objectivity, asserting, "It's tempting to take the easy route and either take an ideological tack or squirt seltzer down your pants or do whatever it is to get attention."

This is the same person who, on January 20, 2009, the day of Barack Obama's inauguration, famously proclaimed:

"We know that wind can make a cold day feel colder, but can national pride make a freezing day feel warmer? It seems to be the case because regardless of the final crowd number estimates, never have so many people shivered so long with such joy. From above, even the seagulls must have been awed by the blanket of humanity."


For more on Weir, see the MRC's Profile in Bias.

A partial transcript of the two segments can be found below:

TV Newser

11/16/10

5:20 into interview

CHRIS ARIENS (editorial director, Media Bistro.com): We've seen a fair number of journalists recently who have been suspended or fired for things they've said or done. Keith Olbermann, Rick Sanchez, Juan Williams, Helen Thomas. The list seems to go on and on. Do you ever worry about the things you say or the way that you, I don't know, the way you live your life outside of your news persona and how it might be perceived?

BILL WEIR: Yeah. Well, I've drastically scaled down the size of my meth lab.

ARIENS [Laughs]: That's good. Smart. Wise.

WEIR: Just out of, you know, an abundance of caution on that. Yes. And I no longer tweet, you know, race baiting comments. I made my salary for years as kind of being a smart ass, you know, at the end of the desk, especially when I was doing sports. And that allowed for that. It was a way to liven up those Clipper highlights on a nightly basis. Um, but when I came to ABC and they took, took a shot on me and sent me to war zones and hurricanes, I took that incredibly seriously. And I didn't want, you know, once you decide that this is the path and that this is your job, you set all that aside. And doing GMA, I miss the spontaneity. That's really where it's going to happen if it's going to happen. It's in a live heated satellite interview or it's in a moment when you toss off a bon mot. But, I think that I survived that. And, yeah. We're in such a bizarre time in terms of what the audience expectations are, how we're competing for eyeballs every night. It's tempting to take the easy route and either take an ideological tack or squirt seltzer down your pants or do whatever it is to get attention. But, I won't be making those mistakes, I hope.

ARIENS: Good.

ARIENS: And you'll air this. And when I do flame out famously, you'll have this in the can.

11/15/10

3:30 in

ARIENS: [Referring to Chilean miners story]: So, how does that compare with reporting from war zones, Iraq, Afghanistan, which you've been to both those countries?

WEIR: You know, the one drawback, and I'm not the first to bring it up, is when you're embedded with U.S. forces, you're really only seeing one side of the story. You're with American troops. Thank goodness, because they are literally looking out for your life. But, you don't get a chance to wander. And that's kind of one of the real joys that I find in this job is when the seat belt light goes off in some country you've never been to before and the door opens and there's new smells and new sights and you can really explore at your own pace. That doesn't happen in a war. But, I'm itching to go back nonetheless. I was in Afghanistan last January and I'm jumping up and down, hoping to go back again. That is the sort of, it's certainly my ultimate experience as a journalist.

- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.