Brian Williams Gets Six Months To Think About Shameful Lie

brian williams

Let me make this clear. The Brian Williams’ gilding of his news credibility is unacceptable and stupid to the core. The prime NBC ‘Nightly News’ anchor has been slapped with a six-month (without pay), potentially career-killing suspension by the network. The reason cited, “For misleading the public about his experiences covering the Iraq war.” Potential huge advertising and money moves like this are always done in concert with the top corporate honchos. Comcast has owned NBC since 2011, plus an endless carpet of cable and media outlets including Bravo, E and USA Network. Brian Roberts is CEO of Comcast and according to the latest Forbes list, is worth a middling $1.3 billion after being absent from the “too much money” club for a few years.

So when the NBC news anchor started a viral boil in the virtually unanimous social media caldron of renouncing Williams, the choice was obvious. And William’s own actions made it all the easier. The absurdity of all this is that there was little need for Williams to exaggerate or lie about the incident that got him suspended.

He claimed his helicopter was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. He further announced that the chopper was “forced down.” It wasn’t true. But the truth would have painted him in almost as bright a bravery light as the lie. He was somewhat behind the actual helicopter that did get hit. For Williams, it was a fairly close call in the hottest of wartimes and also showed what war correspondents face and the courage of our military. The exact, truthful eyewitness account was the perfect story to report back to the Network. But Williams abandoned that story.

Years later, the crew, understandably miffed by the William’s glory hogging, released the truth of the matter on Facebook that appropriately precipitated the downward William’s slide. Here’s a typical Facebook response from one of the guys who was in the affected helicopter.

“Lance Reynolds: 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. Then remember you guys taking back off in a different flight of Chinooks from another unit and heading to Kuwait to report your “war story” to the Nightly News. The whole time we were still stuck in Iraq trying to repair the aircraft and pulling our own Security.”

The supreme irony is that the original contemporaneous telling of the story on a 2003 Tom Brokaw-anchored newscast, was straight-up, honest and truthful reporting. My thanks to for digging up this first telling.

Over the years, as’s outstanding research points out, the story morphed into something quite different. The RPG somehow made its way from the actual helicopter that got hit, to Brian’s helicopter. Instead of being instructed to land after the lead chopper had been hit in the original report, suddenly, Williams’ Chinook had been “forced down”, to quote the latest version of this story, “When the helicopter we were traveling in was “forced down” after being hit by an RPG…” Yeah, ‘forced down’ is a good phrase for what has now happened to Williams’ career.

Watch the unmitigated gall of Williams by scrolling down the page to the January 30, 2015 account of Williams and a genuine war hero at the New York Rangers hockey game. What is truly puzzling is Command Sergeant Major Tim Terpak’s acceptance of the cheering accolades without telling some reporter the truth of what happened. In defense of Terpak, it’s entirely possible that he was engaged elsewhere when the affected helicopter was forced down and maybe later, Williams told him he was riding in the damaged chopper.

As a decades-long newsman and talk show host who also taught Mass Communications on the grad school level, my journalistic sensibilities are offended.

The larger question becomes, do we let Williams get away with this journalistic transgression? Let’s look at a previous high-profile orgy of BS’ing from the lips of off and on Fox News reporter, Geraldo Rivera. Please forgive me for putting ‘Fox’ and ‘News’ in the same sentence. Fox is actually little more than a propaganda sideshow where objective news reporting contributes but a minimal role in the content of the network.

But, back to Geraldo. BF (Before Fox) Rivera had earned considerable respect as a key media force in his WABC-TV 1973 reporting of the scandalous and despicable actions at New York’s Willowbrook State School for children with intellectual challenges. He won a well-deserved Peabody award for his expose and went on to journalistic fame and fortune with but one disruption. It was called Tora Bora. It was December, 2001 in Afghanistan and there, as British newspaper The Telegraph reported, stood the intrepid heroic figure of Rivera, then an LA talk show host, standing on the grounds of Tora Bora, gun in belt, mic in hand. The paper quoted Geraldo’s report: “The whole place just fried really and bits of uniforms and tattered clothing everywhere.” This had all just supposedly happened.

In fact, three American soldiers were among the dead from the day before. But not in Tora Bora, but Kandahar, a few hundred miles distant. Rivera shrugged it off as the “fog of war”. The whole episode must not have hurt him too much. He’s been prowling around Fox News for years and is currently on a stint with Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” H’mmm, maybe he is being punished after all. His bank account is adequate at $15 million. Not huge by today’s standards, but wouldn’t you like to have 15 million bucks in your post-70 years? For the record, Williams is worth $40 million, and at 55 can sit as long as NBC wants him to. Lest we give way to total cynicism, let’s look at some legitimate news warriors.

There was the unforgettable inhumanity of the video of the 1979 Nicaraguan National Guard execution of Bill Stewart of ABC news. U.S. reporters have been terrorized myriad ways. There was the 2011 Lara Logan sexual assault mob-grope in Egypt. Back in 1992, CBS correspondent Bob Simon and his three-man crew left the safety of the Gulf War reporting pack and were promptly captured, arrested, beaten and starved by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers for 40 days. Simon credits the intervention of the Soviet president at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, with their release. Tragically, it has just been reported that Bob Simon lost his life in a car crash, the 11th. He was 73.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Christiane Amanpour, arguably the greatest war correspondent of the modern era. She’ll stick her nose anywhere there is ordnance. She recounts an experience in a Sarajevo hotel where a Howitzer round pierced the wall and destroyed the room two doors down. The shell didn’t explode or the whole floor would have been taken out. She has more similar harrowing tales to tell.

So, Williams offends the proud tradition and moral demands of true journalism and, in particular, the memories of those who braved various war fronts around the world, sacrificing their lives in the process.

If he’s contrite, he’ll work again, but never in the NBC or any other major anchor chair.
BTW; he’s still being investigated.

17 Replies to “Brian Williams Gets Six Months To Think About Shameful Lie”

  1. My entire family watched Brian Williams…..NBC just killed the nightly news by bowing down.
    And who the hell is this Lance Reynolds? What’s the chance he’s a RW hack!
    Well…..looks like MSNBC will grow!

    I sic the dogs on fox……go after them hard, for everything, ruin them….no more turning a blind eye! Go, go, now!

  2. Why should he not be fired? I’ve gotten fired for lesser things at jobs! You can’t be dishonest at companies!! …and you can’t bend the rules. I’ve been working for 35 years and in my experience, if you do the slightest thing wrong, companies will use you as a scapegoat to scare everybody else into obedience. I have had to eat cans of beans while I looked for other work. I have paid dearly for my mistakes. Companies don’t play around. I have, and everybody else in the world has had to suffer the consequences of making a mistake. Why should Brian Williams be any different?

  3. I have watched Brian Williams and was disappointed with what he said. When you compare his lie to FOX (news?) well his is like a little white one my mother used to say was ok if you were trying not to hurt someone’s feelings. I can’t stomach FOX because they make their own news. Stirring the pot is more like it.

  4. Brian Williams (a newscaster) tells one embellished story and gets punted to the sidelines.

    Sarah palin (a former 1/2 term governor and failed VP candidate) told (and still tells) so many LIES that we’ve lost count. And she still has a job at Faux Noise.

    Seems a bit one sided, now, doesn’t it?

  5. What has gone unnoticed in this furor is that it’s actually a very good illustration of the way humans process memory, and it goes unnoticed even by us when we have done it. Several good studies have shown how memories distort over time, and often quite significant details become rearranged or omitted/added to the story. Bottom line: In all likelihood, Williams didn’t “lie”…though he obviously “misremembered”. He doesn’t deserve criticism, and certainly not shame and punishment. Remember the song “Yes, I remember it well”? Turns out no one does…

  6. The critics howling the loudest for Williams’ head were the mendacious crew at Fox “News,” who spent more time on this than most other stories in the past week.

    Hypocrisy much?

  7. Probably the ONLY person who will be punished for lying about the Iraq War.

    NOT that he doesn’t deserve it – but what about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condi, etc.?

  8. Brian Williams is a human being like the rest of us. He didn’t “lie”, but simply spoke as most of us speak when we don’t remember exactly what happened! The corporate media must stop persecuting him.

    Shame on Bush and Cheney who DELIBERATELY LIED to the American people before invading a sovereign country that had NOTHING to do with 9/ll?

    The World Court found them GUILTY of war crimes. But we have done nothing but given them a free ride and Cheney “talk time” on Faux News!

    Bush is not welcome in any country. In fact, several years ago he planned to visit Canada but was told the would arrest him! This was not “reported” in the corporate media but simply ignored!

  9. FrostyAK, The half term governor is not employeed by a news organization to present the news. She is employeed by FOX to appeal to the hate of old white people.

  10. The USA is a disgusting joke!! yeah yeah! even some of my liberal friends will most likely hate this post but when you really study american history, you find so hypocrisy! LIES! BIGOTRY, toxic capitalism!! this country has become a out of control evil empire!! we did the RIGHT thing during the Nuremberg trials!! in 1945 we hung nazi soldiers and commanders!! but today we have cheney and crew running around like rock stars! convincing MANY weak americans into believing invading nations and MURDERING their citizens was god’s will and americans duty!! Now todays RIGHT WING trick is to GRILL Brian Williams!! Where was all this scrutiny during the invasion of IRAQ???

  11. A harsh, but essentially true assessment. Really it starts in the modern era with the rise of the religious right blended with Reagan’s essentially fascist views. The neocons want perpetual war (very profitable) and the plutocrats want a return to the glory days of the robber barons (also very profitable). i have said for a long time that America reached it’s zenith the day before Reagan was inaugurated, downhill ever since. While the rest of the modern world has socialized health care and education, we can’t even figure out the little things like abortion, education, gun control and basic civil rights. The right is a millstone around the countries neck, dragging us down and backwards in time.

  12. Harsh?? my friend just ask the american indians, just ask many black individuals, just ask women! just ask many american muslims, ask many asian americans. I challenge ANYONE to be honest in studying american history and can honestly say this country was EVER fair to any group other than wealthy caucasian males!! HELL, black people got the right to vote before WOMEN actually did! A.A. got the right to vote in 1870, women got the right to vote in 1920 and guess which party is trying like HELL to repeal voting rights??? the beloved GOP!!!

  13. Brian Williams embellished, got caught, apologized, and NBC news temporally removed him because NBC news is the most trusted news and is making a point to stay that way.
    Did this cause panic and fear? NO
    Did people die? NO
    Did he express bigotry or hatred? NO
    Will I continue to watch him when he returns? YES

    Faux Nooze on the other hand…there’s no hope for them.

  14. So what do we make of the fact that NBC ALLOWS elected officials to go on MTP and lie? Gregory didn’t call them out on their lies and the ratings tanked and Todd openly acknowledges that he has to let them lie so he will be able to book them again. What Williams did is a drop in the bucket compared to allowing the repeated lies on MTP

  15. knight4444, I Thank you for your comments.
    I must add that EVERYONE got the right to Vote before Native Americans.
    Natives were not even considered American Citizens until June, 1924, with the passing of the 19th amendment. With that amendment passing, they were able to vote, but, even then, many states refused to let them vote.
    My Father was born in March 1924, was not considered a US citizen upon his birth at Pine Ridge Agency in South Dakota.
    Again, Thank you for your comments.

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