Who’s More Stupid: Brian Williams or James Dolan?

The great George Carlin once quipped, “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that!” This brought to mind the two stupid human tricks dominating my news feed this week. One a CEO who gave perhaps the stupidest reply to a frustrated customer ever typed by an industry monolith and the other a, now formerly, trusted news anchor who showed a penchant for elevating the personal drama in his recollection of his witness to history. Which actions are the more stupid? Perhaps as pertinent, which consequence is the more stupid?

James Dolan is a personal villain of mine. I’ll never use or support Cablevision, not because of it’s products or services but because it’s CEO/Owner has demonstrated massive incompetence in running my beloved NY Knicks and Rangers franchises. Dolan let fly an ignorant and angry rebuttal to an email received by a long time fan who called Dolan on his repeated incompetence as head of the MSG empire. All of us have likely felt the sting of a personal attack on our performance or results or felt equally slighted or lied to in a business dealing. I know on a few occasions it has driven me to channel my anger into a stinging email reply. Knowing I was emotional in those cases I re-read and edited substantially. Even with my couple of well reviewed pointed responses the better decisions were the times I typed my reply to get it out of my system and then pressed Delete rather than Send.

Dolan had one appropriate reply that every PR guy on the planet could have dictated, it would go something like: “Dear Sir, Thank you for sharing your feelings and frustrations about MSG. While it sounds like this is of little comfort to you I want you to know I share your frustration in our lack of recent winning but promise you my commitment to our common goal is…yadda, yadda, yadda.

Instead Dolan responded to the biting, though not vulgar critique, with what sounded like reflections on his own demons. Calling the man “hateful” and insinuating he was alcoholic (like Dolan) and likely brought that vitriol onto his family. (Ironically it was the fan’s journalist son who brought the Dolan reply to light). NBA Commissioner in trying to dismiss the incident with the league’s All Star events in NYC this weekend tried to blow it off as Dolan just being a typical New Yorker, “if you get bit you bight back.” Obviously no monetary fine would matter to Dolan and his act was not on par with Donald Sterling’s bigotry but I would have like to see the Commissioner grow a pair and ban Dolan from League events this weekend at his very facility. That would have sent the right message rather than the insulting comparison that while standing up for yourself is a New York trait, telling an unhappy customer go away you don’t want them is far below the NY business standard. For certain in this case stupidity is it’s own punishment.

As for Mr. Williams, what a lesson in how easily credibility is destroyed and trust eroded. No one was hurt by Williams’ actions and embellishment is a crime we have all likely shared. To be sure the journalist trust is a far higher standard but compare his exaggerations to the outright mistruth and misleading statements that abound on Fox News as zealots for their version of fact. John Stewart’s assessment was appropriate, this is how and when we decide to hold someone accountable for actions in the Iraq war? Compared to the “yellow cake” and “WMD” lies offered by past politicians and regurgitated by so many news outlets.

So Brian Williams is suspended by NBC for six months without pay for elevating his place of danger and horror as a witness to the news. A stupid mistake that cost a man his reputation and possibly his credibility. James Dolan gets a “NY boys will be boys” from his league for demonstrated the greatest “what not to do” for every executive or business owner. The two are not corporate equals and thus we thank Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the king,” and remember Mrs. Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”