It’s no laughing matter as Williams’ weathers storm of his Iraq fabrications
Brian Williams, who for many Americans is “the face of news”, has announced he is temporarily stepping away from his show “NBC Nightly News” amid questions about his memories of war coverage in Iraq. In a memo to NBC News staff that was released by the network, the anchorman said that as managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” he is taking himself off the broadcast for several days. NBC News refused to comment Saturday on when or whether Williams would return and who would decide his future. Williams said on Saturday that he will step aside as anchor of his nightly NBC News broadcast for “several days” as a result of the controversy generated by his comments about his reporting during the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. There was no indication by Williams that such a decision was forthcoming during his newscast Friday. He signed off as he usually does, saying he hoped people would be “back to see him Monday.”
Williams, 55, has been under fire after he apologized to a group of Iraq war veterans for exaggerating the danger he and an NBC News crew faced while covering the start of the war in 2003. He had described coming under rocket and gunfire while traveling with U.S. soldiers in a military helicopter that was damaged and forced to land. The soldiers disputed Williams’s account, saying his aircraft had not been attacked, prompting Williams to recant the story. On Saturday, a 2007 video surfaced of him characterizing the Iraq episode in a different, but no less dramatic fashion than he had before or since. In the video, Williams said he “looked down the tube” of a rocket launcher after the weapon had been fired at another helicopter during his 2003 trip to Iraq. The soldiers who piloted Williams’s helicopter in Iraq, however, said no rocket-propelled grenades had been fired at the aircraft, a fact that Williams did not dispute and apologized for on Wednesday. A military helicopter that preceded Williams’s helicopter to a landing spot in the Iraqi desert did sustain damage from an RPG, but it was at least a half-hour ahead of Williams’s flight. NBC declined on Saturday to comment on the video. On Friday, network officials said an internal review had been launched to vet Williams’s statements.
His comments about his work covering Hurricane Katrina are also part of the review. He has made several statements about what he saw and experienced during the storm in New Orleans that have not been corroborated. Questions were raised about the validity of his claims that he saw a body or bodies in the floodwaters during the devastation in 2005. Williams is the most-watched anchorman in the nation and is thus among NBC’s most valuable assets. “Nightly News” attracts more than 9 million viewers daily. Removing him permanently would be costly, both in terms of settling his contract, and, more important, in its effect on NBC’s ratings. The mounting number of Williams’s questionable statements and NBC’s evident concern over them have many people talking about his increasingly likely demise as the face of NBC News.
Williams’ lies may well be seen as a slap in the face to many veterans, to whom he should be pleading forgiveness, not pretending that it never happened. Funnily enough, one place you won’t see reporting this news is — NBC News. After a full week of the network ignoring the story on every front, now their website does not have a single link about it. However did that happen?