It’s done. Thru. C’est fini.
NBC’s until-now respected anchor and newsman Brian William’s credibility is gone — just like the credibility of those young and older journalists over the years whose credibility took a massive hit if turned out they fabricated stories or quotes or blatantly plagiarized. And no amount of spin by Williams, his associates, defense lawyer like explanations from his co-workers or associates, or let’s-give-him-a-pass-on-this one suggestions by his admirers (and I have long been a big one one) can change it.
He has admitted that a story he has told him various forms was not true. A mistake. Just a matter of not remembering correctly. That won’t fly for several reasons — and the whole episode is sad because it is symptomatic of what has happened with our media over the years.
The sordid details, via Stars and Stripes:
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years.
Williams repeated the claim Friday during NBC’s coverage of a public tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game for a retired soldier that had provided ground security for the grounded helicopters, a game to which Williams accompanied him. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he said he had misremembered the events and was sorry.
Question: Unless you have a severe memory problem or can’t distinguish between a memory and a dream, how is that a “misremembering” something? And Williams corrected the record only when finally called out on it:
The admission came after crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor was nowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
Not an error. But a symptom (see below for more on that).
Williams told his Nightly News audience that the erroneous claim was part of a “bungled attempt” to thank soldiers who helped protect him in Iraq in 2003. “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said. “I want to apologize.”
Apologizes are laudable. But Williams is not just a newsman. He’s an anchor — and a corporate symbol of NBC News.
Baby Boomers well recall how CBS’ Walter Cronkite was called “the most trusted man in America” because he was fixated on facts. He did so much anchoring during newscasts, breaking events and conventions that they called him “old iron pants.”
Anchors need to be trusted. In 21st century America you alsosee ideological news anchors, who make their partisan preferences clear. But using an anecdote that proves to be totally false that makes you look good is in a different category. To many, it’ll mean you will be forever suspect and don’t view facts as things to be uncovered, and displayed and truthfully laid out.
Williams made the claim about the incident while presenting NBC coverage of the tribute to the retired command sergeant major at the Rangers game Friday. Fans gave the soldier a standing ovation.
“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said on the broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews.
Does this sound like a case of misremembering?
That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists.
“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” he said Wednesday.
The helicopters, along with the NBC crew, remained on the ground at a forward operating base west of Baghdad for two or three days, where they were surrounded by an Army unit with Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams M-1 tanks.
Miller said he never saw any direct fire on the position from Iraqi forces.
The claim rankled Miller as well as soldiers aboard the formation of 159th Aviation Regiment Chinooks that were flying far ahead and did come under attack during the March 24, 2003, mission.
I think Williams is done as the symbol of NBC News: for instance, he once told Alec Baldwin that he thought he’d die in that (didn’t happen) helicopter crash.
So this apology most likely won’t work:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emkaOx7xmAc
What’s really at the core of this scandal?
It’s a weakness I’ve seen many one time fine, dignified, print and broadcast reporters fall victim to: they reach the media heights of being on the tube in one capacity or other and then the solid JOURNALISTIC qualities and seriousness that helped them rise to the top become chipped away.
They begin to parrot the existing media journalism/political culture in their analysis, in the way they move, their jaunty attitude. Forget politics, you can see onetime serious print reporters and onetime serious broadcast journalists transform.
It’s the difference between seeing a real kid or the real kid actors who were in the old Hal Roach Little Rascals shorts in the eary to mid-twentieth century, and seeing of the self-aware, self-absorbed, professional kid actors you see on so many TV shows and in the movies.
So many current media figures on the left, right and center have changed as The Invasion of the Media Body Snatchers dumbs down their once intelligent analysis, or their once professional reporting: Bill O’Reilly, Rachael Maddow, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and many more.
Walter Cronkite never let himself be gobbled up by it, nor has CBS’s Bob Schieffer (who should have replaced Cronkite).
And then there’s this: in 21st century media, the anchor or reporter often becomes part of the story.
In this case, it’s a story that does not hold up.
So now (sigh) yop can now easily predict Mr. Williams’ fate by some of the coverage:
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.
The admission from Williams Wednesday that he lied about being in a Chinook helicopter that was hit by enemy fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is astonishing. And he only admitted the lie after being confronted with it by the military publication, “Stars and Stripes,” which has a well-documented report and timeline showing his shifting version of events over the years.
Williams told the lie as recently as Friday….
…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?
He’s a liar.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams dealt journalists everywhere a stunning blow Wednesday when he apologized for telling millions a tall tale about how he once rode in a military helicopter that got shot down by enemy fire in Iraq.
To be clear, Williams — who presides over one of the most watched evening newscasts on the planet — did not admit that he had lied, he simply apologized for making a “mistake.”
“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.”
NBC’s Brian Williams admits story of riding in shot-down helicopter in Iraq is false
We’re talking about a rocket propelled grenade slamming into the side of a helicopter as it flies over a battlefield. So what if it was 12 years ago? I can remember getting hit in the head with a rock by a kid in third grade.
And the Twitter ridicule, mockery and berating was huge — and has not subsided:
The Brian Williams scandal is an NBC News-wide scandal: http://t.co/0sg3vSzWYd
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 5, 2015
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) February 5, 2015
Brian Williams is scheduled to be here — Letterman's show — next Thursday. Q is whether he'll reschedule pic.twitter.com/epNUcWTGSi
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 5, 2015
Dan Rather backs Brian Williams http://t.co/Sx2iBYyQFh
— POLITICO (@politico) February 5, 2015
NBC criticized Hillary Clinton for false memories of “sniper fire.” Will it hold Brian Williams to the same standard? http://t.co/FP9nhxzcNn
— Slate (@Slate) February 5, 2015
— Salon.com (@Salon) February 5, 2015
— Susan Page (@SusanPage) February 5, 2015
— You Thought It Too (@TrueFactsStated) February 5, 2015
Not sure why, but I'm getting emails from deep inside right wing bubble demanding that I account for Brian Williams story.
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) February 5, 2015
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) February 5, 2015
— The Weekly Standard (@weeklystandard) February 5, 2015
— Mashable (@mashable) February 5, 2015
Could Williams stay in his anchor seat and at NBC? Anything is possible. But he will remain damaged goods.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.