During Super Tuesday election coverage on March 3, MSNBC news anchor Brian Williams unwittingly waded into a Texas-size controversy.
The New Jersey native dared to proclaim one barbecue joint — Salt Lick BBQ, whose flagship location is in Driftwood — as the best in the Lone Star State. Speaking via satellite from Austin, Evan Smith, former editor of Texas Monthly and current CEO of the Texas Tribune, promptly set Williams straight.
At the outset of their on-air chat, Williams wondered why politicians Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke were chowing down March 1 at a Whataburger in Dallas and weren’t savoring brisket at the Salt Lick. (Memo to Williams: The Salt Lick is nearly a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Big D.)
“I heard you mention the Salt Lick as the best barbecue in Texas in an earlier [segment],” Smith — a native New Yorker but longtime Austinite — told Williams. “If you want to talk about controversial ... you think gun confiscation in Texas is controversial? Identifying one barbecue restaurant as the best in Texas is going to get you in a lot of trouble. So I’m just going to stay out of that debate.”
Williams responded somewhat sheepishly.
“As an Easterner who loves Austin and visiting Austin — Hook ’em Horns, the LBJ Library, I eat my weight and barbecue when I’m there — I didn’t even name among Ford, Dodge, and Chevy [as] my favorite pickup. I know enough not to do that.”
Smith replied: “C’mon down. We’ll take you to a few different [barbecue] places. You can test and learn, okay?”
“I will take you up on that, my friend,” Williams promised. “Thank you for sharing your wisdom of all things Texas.”
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow then chimed in, labeling Smith’s light-hearted rebuke as a “healthy warning.”
Williams wrapped up the segment by tweaking his original review of the Salt Lick.
“As I said,” Williams concluded, “the Salt Lick is among the best barbecue places in the state of Texas.”