It’s the end of an era.
After 28 years with NBC News, Brian Williams signed off as host of MSNBC’s “The 11th Hour” on Thursday night with a show that began like any other but ended with Williams making an impassioned plea to his audience to keep holding the media and the government accountable as the country faces a deeply challenging midterm election cycle in 2022.
Before he signed off, Williams hosted a panel of his closest friends and some of the first guests who had joined him on his early shows. “Deadline: White House” anchor Nicolle Wallace appeared, as did James Carville and historians Michael Bechloss and Jon Meacham. Carville, dressed in an LSU Santa hat, railed against Democrats for not taking a stronger stance against the Republicans in Congress, specifically naming Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, and Jim Jordan, and their particular transgressions against the legal system.
Williams and his besties, Bechloss and Meacham, brought the conversation to a serious place as they discussed just where they believe America is headed.
And then it was time for Williams to sign off, which of course he did with his usual eloquence and mastery of the language. “The truth is I am not a liberal or a conservative. I’m an institutionalist,” Williams began. “I believe in this place and in my love of country I yield to no one. But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods. It is now at the local bar and the bowling alley, at the school board and the grocery store. And it must be acknowledged and answered for. Grown men and women, who swore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents, possessing the kind of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob and become something they are not, while hoping we somehow forget who they were. They’ve decided to burn it all down with us inside.” Williams said that the final show made him “hyper-aware that it has been a remains a wonderful life. It’s as if I am going to wake up tomorrow morning in Bedford Falls. The reality is, though, I will wake up in the America of the year 2021, a nation unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it, which is what you must do now.”
But then there are those of us who choose to send Brian Williams off into his next chapter by remembering one of the more musical highlights of his career, thanks to the geniuses at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.