Brian Williams Frets Trump Voters are ‘Tyranny-Curious’

On Friday’s The 11th Hour, MSNBC host Brian Williams devoted a segment to comparing President Donald Trump to authoritarians, and suggested that millions of Americans who voted for him are “tyranny-curious.”

He also picked up on a tweet by NBC News historian Michael Beschloss to muse over what it might be like if President Trump were forcibly removed from the White House by the military.

In the show’s first segment, which included ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl in his capacity as an author promoting his book, Williams brought up Beschloss tweeting out an old photograph of Montgomery Ward businessman Sewell Avery being carried from his office by uniformed soldiers. Turning to Karl, the MSNBC host brought up the tweet:

Our mutual friend and a big friend of this broadcast, Michael Beschloss, choosing to become the master of the black and white historical photo in addition to being the master of history in our country. Today he tweeted this out, a classic photo 1944. This is Sewell Avery — they don’t make names like that anymore — chief of Montgomery Ward stores. He refused to leave his office on federal charges, so they sent in the National Guard, and they brought him out seated. Michael knows very well what he’s doing in posting that today.

Ironically, it was arguably Sewell who was resisting Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acting in an authoritarian manner when the President confiscated Montgomery Ward during World War II after a dispute about unionization.

Toward the end of the show, Williams introduced Yale history professor Timothy Snyder as a guest, and brought up the possibility of a “coup d’etat” as the MSNBC host set up the segment: “Our next guest explains the outgoing President’s refusal to concede this way. Quote, ‘What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’etat. Poorly organized though it is, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.'”

As Snyder was appearing live from Austria, Williams began by suggesting President Trump has been a threat to democracy: “How do we look over there right about now? And to all those people who think the danger to democracy has passed with the election of Biden — are they right or wrong?” As part of his response, Snyder fretted:

We have to remember that this is an authoritarian-minded leader who’s in a typical authoritarian situation. In other words, if he leaves office, he faces a billion dollars in debt which there’s no sign he can repay. He also faces criminal investigations at the level of the city and the state of New York. So, like authoritarians around the world, he fears leaving office and has very strong reasons not to leave office. So we should take the threat of his lie about the election outcomes but also future possible threats between now and January very seriously.

Williams suggested that Trump supporters are sympathetic to “tyranny” as he followed up: “As you look at home from there, and when you come home on your next visit, do you view it as a changed country because millions of people decided — maybe over time like the frog boiling experiment — to become at least tyranny-curious?

The fearmongering in this episode of MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams was sponsored in part by Fidelity Investments. Their contact information is linked.

Relevant transcript follows:

MSNBC

The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

November 13, 2020

11:10 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: John Carl, our mutual friend and a big friend of this broadcast, Michael Beschloss, choosing to become the master of the black and white historical photo in addition to being the master of history in our country. Today he tweeted this out, a classic photo 1944. This is Sewell Avery — they don’t make names like that anymore — chief of Montgomery Ward stores. He refused to leave his office on federal charges, so they sent in the National Guard, and they brought him out seated. Michael knows very well what he’s doing in posting that today. As they say in the airline business, “We know you have your choice in air travel.” Michael had his choice in photos to tweet out today. So with that as the background, what are these days like to cover at the White House?

(…)

11:42 p.m.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hopefully the — whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell.

WILLIAMS: Our next guest explains the outgoing President’s refusal to concede this way. Quote, “What Donald Trump is attempting to do has a name: coup d’etat. Poorly organized though it is, it is not bound to fail. It must be made to fail.” With us to talk about it professor Timothy Snyder of Yale University. Professor Snyder was a Marshall Scholar educated at Ivy League and over at Oxford specializing in Europe and the Holocaust. He’s the author of two books of note to our discussion — On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the 20th Century, and The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America. … You’re in Vienna, Austria, where it’s unbelievably early. We appreciate that. So a dual question. How do we look over there right about now? And to all those people who think the danger to democracy has passed with the election of Biden — are they right or wrong?

PROFESSOR TIMOTHY SNYDER, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, as to the first question, how do we look? In general, the leaders of European democracies are quite relieved. The four years of President Trump have been a test for Europeans and their institutions. Europeans have become more independent and in some ways more powerful. I think they, in general, see the Biden administration not as a chance to go back to the past, but a chance to address the real challenges of the future. As for Mr. Trump, we have to remember that this is an authoritarian-minded leader who’s in a typical authoritarian situation. 

In other words, if he leaves office, he faces a billion dollars in debt which there’s no sign he can repay. He also faces criminal investigations at the level of the city and the state of New York. So, like authoritarians around the world, he fears leaving office and has very strong reasons not to leave office. So we should take the threat of his lie about the election outcomes but also future possible threats between now and January very seriously. Democracy doesn’t win — it’s the people who win when they support democracy.

WILLIAMS: As you look at home from there, and when you come home on your next visit, do you view it as a changed country because millions of people decided — maybe over time like the frog boiling experiment — to become at least tyranny-curious?

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