Thursday, February 5, 2015

NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams Admits to Helicopter War Tale Lie

NBC's Brian Williams Admits to and Apologizes for Lie About Being on Helicopter Shot Down During Iraq War

Credibility and integrity are vitally important to all of us, but few trade off of those qualities more than NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.  That is why his shockingly candid admission that he lied about being on board of a U.S. Army helicopter that was shot down in Iraq some 11 years ago is so jarring.

NOTE:  Mr. Williams has been quoted as saying he did not lie; rather, he reportedly said he "misremembered."  Him and Roger Clemens both!

Given recent events, his precise recounting of his tale on the Letterman Show in 2013 is jarring for its assured character.

Very Bad Idea, Brian
Did Brian Williams Tale About the 2003 Helicopter Event Influence NBC's Decision to Make Him Anchor of NBC Nightly News in 2004?

Mr. Williams claims he was on board of a helicopter shot down during the war on Iraq in early 2003. So far, it is unclear when he first manufactured this tale.

However, it is perhaps noteworthy that he became the anchor for NBC News Nightly in December 2004, not too long after the alleged event in Iraq.

If Mr. Williams first published his fiction while being considered for the Nightly News anchor position (which he ultimately assumed from the esteemed Mr. Brokaw in 2004), and if he was awarded that position in part because of his fabrication, then, in my eyes, his entire tenure as anchor of the evening news program is greatly tarnished, and his reputation even further diminished.

NPR News has done a somewhat in-depth chronology of Mr. Williams' web of lies, with an apparent eye towards resolving the question posited herein.  However, its report stops short of concluding that Mr. Williams first told his embellished story prior to being promoted as successor to Mr. Brokaw.

Look, I am going to make a guess here.  My guess is this: whether Mr. Williams publicly spun his tale prior to being promoted appears still open to debate.  However, I would bet your bottom dollar that Mr. Williams at a minimum recounted his tale inside the hallowed halls of NBC long before his promotion was announced, and did so to enhance his candidacy for promotion to anchor.

In this connection, when I look at the Letterman 2013 interview, I come away thinking Mr. Letterman knew that the story was fabricated, and avoided participated in the charade by vaguely alluding to "something that happened 10 years ago."

What is the Future for NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams?

Lying About War Events Really Low-Down, Brian
On the one hand, one has to acknowledge that he is now being up front and personal in his incredible mea culpa.  By the same token, understanding his rationale for "misremembering" in the first place is very difficult.

How could a man who has accomplished so much, ascending to the throne as the most reliable news anchor in America, choose to engage in such chicanery?

It is sad to say, given how hard I am sure Mr. Williams has worked to achieve his success over the past 20 years, that I can never look at him the same again.  There is no way around it - this man told (what I see as a) a bold-face lie to to millions of television viewers in an effort to enhance his status, image, experience and/or persona.

Could you imagine Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw  engaging in such patently dishonest behavior?

Can You Imagine the Great Cronkite Lying Like This?
Didn't Think So.
Me neither.

I would be surprised to see Mr. Williams on the air next month.

That is a bold statement, given how much revenue he produces for the Network.  And, to be sure, NBC's decision to permit him to spend 2 minutes during a news broadcast apologizing certainly suggests that the network wants this to blow over (other television personas such as Jimmy the Greek and Geraldo Rivera were not given similar opportunities under similar circumstances). But, I simply do not believe this is going to go away quietly.

Mr. Williams credibility is simply too important.

UPDATE (2/5/14 @8:22 p.m.):  The NY Times is reporting that Mr. Williams' claim that he "misremembered" the events in question is being challenged by journalists and military veterans alike.  Aaron Brown, a former anchor for CNN, said "l will tell you that getting shot at is not something you forget.”

Some are now suggesting, for the first time (outside of my earlier Blog entry, of course), that Mr. Williams job could be in jeopardy.

"#brianwilliamsmisremembered" is now trending on Twitter.

UPDATE (January 6, 2013); Brian Williams is now under fire for possibly lying about his experience in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania.  

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