Brian Williams the high profile news anchor and managing editor of NBC’s flagship Nightly News program has been left red faced after making false claims about being on a helicopter that was shot at by an RPG. Erik Wemple from the Washington Post explains.
After NBC Nightly News last week posted to Facebook a clip of the anchor reminiscing about having embedded with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, some Facebookers took issue with the particulars. Whereas Williams claimed that he was riding in a helicopter that was forced down after being hit by an RPG, others had a different recollection. “Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened,” wrote Lance Reynolds in a Facebook comment responding to the Williams segment.
After digging a hole for himself Williams retracted his story.
In issuing an on-air apology for his “mistake” in misremembering the circumstances of the March 2003 episode, Williams credited “some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert” for debunking his set of facts. “I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft,” he said on Wednesday night’s “NBC Nightly News.”
Wemple then goes on to ask some pertinent questions.
Again: Where were Williams’s crew members, who surely knew that Williams had either “conflated” his Chinook with another Chinook — his explanation — or was using the passage of time to embellish his own exploits — another explanation. And what of other NBC News employees who worked on the story? Why did they remain silent on these matters? Are they still with NBC News?
We put these questions to NBC News and haven’t heard back.
By all logic, NBC News would like to rest on Williams’s apology, ride out the media storm and, eventually, move ahead with things. Yet the fact that personnel aside from Williams knew that his statements on these events were erroneous should prompt an internal probe as to how these falsehoods circulated so freely.
I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that proper internal probe by NBC. I can already hear some critics lamenting journalistic and editorial standards in the US mainstream media.