Last year was a splendid one for Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchor, as he celebrated his 10th year at the desk. The anniversary was even marked with promos touting the anchor’s character and commitment to viewers.
However, as of last Wednesday, Williams has shown this year might not be as heartwarming when he announced he had made a false claim as he apologized for his harrowing war story from his time spent in Iraq in 2003.
Now, with all the crumbling grace and integrity those 10 years have built, what remains are questions of other fabrications, an NBC internal investigation and Williams taking a leave from his news desk.
Getting Williams into so much heat is his claim that he was in a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire. In reality, there was no firing upon his helicopter, but rather the one in front of his, which was hit and forced to land.
According to the New York Times, Williams has spouted his version of what happened to his team in Iraq for years, but he now admits he “conflated” his helicopter and another. Apparently Williams was only able to clear up his memory last week when he was called out by troops who had actually been in the struck helicopter.
Williams’ reveal was more a result of being caught and having to confess than his deciding to come out and be honest, which increases the gap of mistrust. Now, news outlets and social media are buzzing about Williams’ lie and if he can be trusted about any of the stories he has told in his career.
Specifically being questioned is the reporting Williams made during Hurricane Katrina, in which, as stated in New York Daily News, he told stories of floating bodies, gangs taking over his hotel and contracting dysentery. Though news sites are leaning toward his side, the consensus already appears to be leaning toward more lies by Williams.
While Williams fabricated a story to color himself as a war journalist, this moment should not wash away all Williams’ career.
In the world of news, getting the story wrong can be devastating to one’s credibility, as the Williams news cycle is demonstrating. However, it is not as if Williams’ false Iraq story was actually news, or anything important to put in the history books. What Williams had was a nice story that gave him an “on the front line” edge. What really matters are the news stories
he shares from his desk that actually affect people and have the substance to inform and not just entertain.
Additionally, this is not the first time someone in the public eye has lied, no less will it be a surprise when it all blows over. One instance is when former presi- dent Bill Clinton lied to the nation and denied having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, yet now he can manage to steal the show at events such as the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where his words were able to rally support for President Barack Obama.
The public has a way to forget about news as soon as the next topic is thrown forward. Lance Armstrong was not all he was cracked up to be, nor was Tiger Woods a role model.
There is no excuse for Williams’ choice, and no doubt he will have to continue admitting how sorry he is to have lied. If it becomes a fact that Williams fabricated his claims during Katrina or other events, then he will have to apologize more.
Yet, when the dust settles and the news cycle picks up a fresh story then, as always, people will move on. The famous anchor will resume his seat behind the desk and the prompter will roll on.
Adam Mathieu is a junior majoring in studio art.