Heir to the air

Media | Brian Williams to ascend NBC throne after Tom Brokaw abdicates in 2004

Issue: "The Marriage Amendment," June 8, 2002

While most TV stars come and go in a few months or years, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw have been America's anchorman trio since 1983. Mr. Brokaw, who took a long vacation last summer and spurred retirement rumors, is the first to renounce his media royalty. He announced he would retire after the presidential election in 2004, and NBC made the totally unsurprising announcement that his long-time heir apparent Brian Williams would take over.

Mr. Williams is seen by media analysts as a smart, sometimes sardonic presence without an overwhelming urge to tilt the news to the left. But the Media Research Center has caught a collection of liberal utterances. The most notorious quote came after a Jan. 6, 2000, GOP debate in which George W. Bush announced Jesus was his favorite philosopher: "It's red meat for conservatives, the positions rather strident tonight: anti-gay, pro-Jesus, and anti-abortion, and no gray matter in between."

In contrast with Mr. Brokaw, Messrs. Jennings and Rather have been working out contract extensions, as if anchoring were a lifetime appointment. Five years ago, Dan Rather told the Los Angeles Times "you can sooner expect a tall talking broccoli stick to offer to mow your lawn for free" than expect to find him still in the anchor chair after the year 2000. But he's now under contract until 2006.

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