NBC anchor Brian Williams is under fire and possibly in danger of being whacked by NBC News for having told a whopper about having been in a helicopter in Iraq that was shot down by ground fire 12 years ago. Yesterday Williams admitted that he had actually been in an aircraft that was following one that got hit. “The fog of memory over 12 years made me conflate the two, and I apologize,” Wlliams said on a Facebook posting.
Update: Former chief warrant officer Rich Krell, who was piloting the Chinook helicopter that Brian Williams was riding in back in 2003, says their chopper was, in fact, hit by small arms fire. “Mr. Williams was on board my aircraft [and] we took small arms fire,” Krell told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Bullets “struck the belly up in the forward cabin area and one or two other side hits, but [they] didn’t cause any major damage, just some minor damage to electronic components.” Could Krell’s comments save Williams’ ass?
Back to previously filed story: In 2.4 piece calling for Williams’ head, the Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik noted that “nowhere in his ‘admission’ does Williams say what he actually did: lied. Instead he says something ‘screwed up’ in his ‘mind.’ And it ’caused’ him to ‘conflate one aircraft with another.’ And this guy is the face of your news division?”
“If credibility means anything to NBC News, Brian Williams will no longer be managing editor and anchor of the evening newscast by the end of the day Friday,” Zurawik wrote.
I don’t know how one of the biggest guys in the news business could have done this to himself, but somehow Williams decided in his head that he could tell a flat-out whopper on Late Night with David Letterman and get away with it. Then again if you substitute the word “lie” for “misspeak”, Williams is merely guilty of what future-president Hillary Clinton admitted to almost seven years ago. Clinton apologized not for lying for getting the story somewhat wrong (“I misspoke”), and everyone let it go and she kept on running for President.
Politicians, of course, are expected to lie. A TV news guy is naturally held to a higher standard.
On 3.25.08 a N.Y. Times story by Patrick Healy and Katharine Q. Seelye reported that Clinton had admitted she “misspoke” about the episode that had happened in Bosnia in which she claimed she and her daughter Chelsea had dodged rifle fire at an airport. “Mrs. Clinton said she had been told ‘that we had to land a certain way and move quickly because of the threat of sniper fire,’ not that actual shots were being fired,” the story reports. “‘So I misspoke,’ she said.”
Deadline is reporting that Dan Rather has come to Williams’ defense. “I don’t know the particulars about that day in Iraq,” Rather says. “[But] I do know Brian. He’s a longtime friend and we have been in a number of war zones and on the same battlefields, competing but together. Brian is an honest, decent man, an excellent reporter and anchor — and a brave one. I can attest that — like his predecessor Tom Brokaw — he is a superb pro, and a gutsy one.”