NBC News thread of fine journalism

Hey, they can screw up too. And when do, it’s a doozy.

Brian Williams (NBC News anchor) admitted that his oft-repeated story of being in a helicopter that was hit by an RPG in 2003 was false.

“After a groundfire incident in the desert during the Iraq war invasion, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” he said. “It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert. I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. . . . This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not.”


The episode dates to a report by Williams on March 26, 2003. During the prime-time “Dateline NBC,” he recounted the dangers faced by U.S. helicopters. But in that broadcast, he noted that the helicopter that was hit was not the one he was aboard. Over footage of a damaged Chinook, he said. “That hole was made by a rocket- grenade, or RPG. It punched cleanly through the skin of the ship, but amazingly it didn’t detonate. . . . We learned [the helicopter] was shot at by some of those waving civilians.”

But over the years, the story began to morph into an incident that involved Williams himself.

Williams has told the helicopter-under-fire story before. In a 2013 appearance on David Letterman’s talk show, he said, “Two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47.”

A somewhat ambiguous recounting appears in “Operation Iraqi Freedom: The Inside Story,” a book written by NBC Enterprises in 2003. That account has Williams in the helicopter and details such as the grenade round grazing a crewman’s face.

Double what!?

The story’s way cooler when it happens to the person telling it.

LOL - yeah. I caught that as well, and I’m sorely dissappointed because I always got that “legitimate” feeling from Williams.

I’m not saying he intentionally lied, studies have shown that you can easily change people’s recollection of events with a little prodding, especially if the event was stressful, but this incident is so damn odd. Williams basically says he got his helicopter conflated with the one that got hit, but his was an hour behind. An hour! He literally didn’t see the hit, wasn’t near it, and didn’t have anything to do with it except report on the aftermath. So crazy that the story grew that far from the initial event.

His excuse goes like this: he was in the trailing chopper, and later on the crew was given a tour of the one that had been hit. He and his crew all stood around the tail of the hit chopper looking up a the hole in the tail that no one had known about until landing.

He says that the story changed in his mind from “The lead chopper was hit by an RPG and no one noticed” to “OUR chopper was hit by an RPG and no one noticed”.

Not sure where the bullet-past-the-face thing falls into the narrative. It seems like it would be hard to miss the crucial detail of whether or not you were actually in the vehicle, even 15 years on from the event.

How has he he not been booted already? Man, NBC just doesn’t even pretend anymore, does it?

He has left. I saw a headline on Yahoo a few hours ago, I think. The timeline I saw on one site made me kind of sympathetic to his side. For years he’d been saying he was in the helicopter behind the one that got hit by the RPG, and the timeline went into what he said each time. And it was only after years of that, it started morphing into an attack where his helicopter was hit. I don’t know, when I’m telling a story about what happened years ago, my memory of the event fades and more and more what I remember is the telling of it, and that usually changes a little each time.

Anyway, I didn’t think it was that big a deal, but I guess I was wrong.

I’ve been seeing “He’s off the air” headlines for much of the day, today, actually.

He hasn’t left for good, apparently, but is taking a temporary break.

In a statement released today, Williams said that "it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.

“I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days,” Williams wrote, adding that colleague Lester Holt would be taking over his nightly anchoring duties during his absence.

Of course, his bosses could decide to make that permanent.

I think this thing has been blown way out of proportion, personally - who among us hasn’t exaggerated a bit when telling years-old stories, either intentionally or accidentally? But he did it on the most public possible stage, in our media environment where any hint of scandal is pounced upon and dissected endlessly.

Seems like an incredibly minor issue to get fired over. Embellishing a personal story, in a way that doesn’t really hurt anyone? Sorry, I’m not seeing why this is even news beyond laughing at the guy briefly.

You have folks on both fox and msnbc who lie regularly with the actual goal of convincing viewers of something.

Somehow if Bret Baier, let alone someone like Rush Limbaugh, was the person who did this, this thread would already be 15 pages and the NYT would have run front page stories for 2 weeks straight. It’s always guys like Dan Rather and Brian Williams who do this crap but that’s not as fun as making fun of conservative media for being evil because they ran a story on the war on christmas, etc.

It would never happen to rush Limbaugh, because he would never be out in the field reporting on anything.

But honestly, what exactly is so offensive? Why is this so bad?

Well, it’s a perception issue - people have their jobs on news programs because they can convince their viewership that they speak the truth (even if that truth is a bunch of obvious lies to everyone else). Without that perception of integrity, the value of a newscaster gets diminished. That said, no, it isn’t a big deal in “the real world” and people stretch or fabricate stories all the time (on and off air).

And it’s not like Limbaugh doesn’t lie about shit constantly anyway.

I find this fascinating. Williams is already rich, famous, well respected and liked. He had nothing to gain by this, and yet his inner storyteller took over and told an easily falsifiable lie. I would bet even his own memory had started to change. Stress, then the passage of time can do some goofy things to the mind.

This reminds me of Hilary Clinton talking about dodging sniper fire when flying into Bosnia. It seemed like she actually remembered it that way.

Finally, I think that if Rush Limbaugh did this, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or shocking. He’s explicitly not a journalist – he’s an entertainer. Williams is the anchor of a major news network, and his personal credibility is a critical asset. I doubt he can come back from this.

Agree. This forum is largely populated with hypocrites. If this was anyone on Fox News that had done the same thing it would be a much a bigger deal both here and in the mainstream media.

Also in the news, what about Al Sharpton? Race baiting shithead in bed with the Obama whitehouse who also happens to be a huge tax cheat. If it was Karl Rove that owed millions in back taxes, you bet your ass there would be a thread about it here.

People give a fuck about Al Sharpton?

Seriously, what do you people expect anyone to write? Williams came out and admitted it. Everyone said, “Okay.” Should we flip out? How should we do that? What’s the proper amount of outrage to express and in what fashion are we required to do so?

There’s a lot of things people don’t give a fuck about. One person doing one thing and then admitting it isn’t high on my outrage meter. I get that you have a massive erection when a “liberal” does something wrong, but most of us don’t give a fuck. Fox News does this shit so often there’s a thread just condensing it all into once place, yet we barely ever post in that thread. 20 pages for dozens and dozens of incidents, hardly the “15 pages” for a single incident that occurs in your mind.

Are you for real? He has a fucking show on MSNBC (very relevant with respect to Brian Williams) and is an Obama insider. He is a fucking conman and a tax cheat. He should be in jail. But the administration that this forum worships loves him and not only gives him access but accepts his input on policy. No thread about that.

You could make a thread about it.

Of course. But my point was that if it had been a conservative white house insider who owed millions in back taxes there already would have been a thread. There should be a thread but there isn’t.