After Brian Williams announcement he was not aboard a helicopter that came under fire in Iraq, The Sun's David Zurawik says there is little possibility he can continue as NBC News anchor and managing editor. (The Baltimore Sun)
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. Here's part of how "Stars and Stripes" reported it:
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.
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."
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?
Here's what Williams said on his Friday newscast, according to "Stars and Stripes."
"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. Our traveling NBC news team was rescued and kept alive by an Armored Mechanized Platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry."
But, according to what the soldiers who were there told "Stars and Stripes," not only wasn't Williams in the helicopter that got hit, he didn't show up on scene until an hour after the shots were fired.
That's some conflating, don't you think?
In addition to what he told "Stars and Stripes," Williams also told his evening news audience Wednesday that he "made a mistake" in saying he was in a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire. Some "mistake."
Really, if this was 10 or 15 years ago, an anchor at any network would be gone by Friday after an admission of such deception — especially when it is placed alongside the sacrifices made and pains suffered by military personnel and their families.
How could you expect anyone who served in the military to ever see this guy onscreen again and not feel contempt? How could you expect anyone to believe he or the broadcast he leads has any credibility?
I wonder how the newsroom Williams is supposed to be leading will look at him tomorrow morning when he arrives for work.