Brian Williams: Conscience and credibility

 

Brian Williams helicopter incident
Steve Breen/Creators Syndicate

 

When I pretend everything is what I want it to be
I look exactly like what you had always wanted to see

~ Linkin Park, “Lying from You”

 

21 comments

  1. I have for some time now pretty much stuck with NBC Evening News Brian Williams when watching network news coverage. I really like David Muir but ABC, given the newscast is only 30-minutes long, seem to cover a lot of frivolous news the last half of their newscast and as far as CBS… well I personally just can’t stand Scott Pelley. He even runs me off of ’60 Minutes’ when he shows up! 😦 But I have digressed….

    I watched Brian’s newscast Thursday evening to see if he would try to again redress his previous remarks but he said nothing which was probably a good idea from his perspective. Last night I had absolutely no desire what so ever to listen to his newscast or look at his face. It is obvious that he embellished the truth, if I may be so kind, and all this rhetoric justifying that such recounting errors could happen to anyone over time and that we all make those kinds of errors, well I’m not just buying it. Not when bodily harm or a person’s life may possibly be at risk during the subject incident.

    And when someone in his position, given what I am sure he has witnessed over the years with regard to our veterans, tries to somehow use smoke and mirrors to try and impress his viewing public if not just flat out lying in the process, well your history on my playlist!

    1. I’ve struggled mightily with this thing and vacillated from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again. I’ve been appalled by what’s happened to our TV news sources in recent years, the commercialism, the frank (and even proud) abandonment of objectivity, the substitution of social networks for valid news sources, etc. I’d come to think of Williams as one of the few who was beginning to resemble the old school greats — Brokaw, Cronkite, Murrow. So I’m agonizing over this whole chopper incident, looking for explanations, hearing others tell (and recant and disagree about) what they recall, reading scientific explanations about memory and misremembering, discounting trolls and haters and groupthink on social networks and stories from news sources that have never been particularly credible themselves. He did, after all, report the story accurately in 2003. If NBC has known for some time that the story had become exaggerated/wrong and if they did actually warn him several times to stop telling it and he did not, then they have a very tough decision to make. And I’ll probably be on the fence until they do.

      (I discounted attacks on his Katrina reporting after finding photos of water around his hotel and a report of doctors in the hotel lobby treating guests for dysentery.)

      1. His telling of the event on the David Letterman show in 2012 was in my estimation the most damning of his war correspondent disclosures (starts a little before the 3-minute mark) if you haven’t heard it…

        1. Watching this yet again, I’m now wondering if maybe he wasn’t trying more to make the young soldiers look good, rather than himself. And in his defense, he was speaking extemporaneously.

        2. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve also watched his original report several times. I’m having a tough time believing that a reasonably intelligent person would deliberately lie and endanger his professional credibility over something that he and everyone else could review on video at any time.

    1. Yep, sad whether or not you think he’s a deliberate liar. Reputations are precious. They take many years to establish. And they can be destroyed in minutes. I just can’t accept yet (and maybe never) that he’d knowingly, deliberately throw it all away.

  2. Faulty memory is no excuse for getting the helicopter story wrong. Why? Because being in a helicopter while it is being holed by munitions is impossible to forget. Strong emotions cement memory, and that’s a fact.
    Williams’ glib attempt to deflect criticism of the helicopter incident by alluding to some vague motive to praise troops was obvious and disgusting. It was a total non-sequitur.
    I always did think Williams’ coverage of Katrina was exaggerated by both hyperbole and extent. My wife can verify that I began calling him “Katrina Williams” at the time. Now that doesn’t prove anything, I know, but it does influence my inclination to accept the reports I’m hearing. The investigation may or may not clarify this – it’s been a long time, so any conclusions will probably be based on a review of other accounts, written and televised.
    I have always enjoyed the evening TV news but at the same time viewed it as more valuable for notification, and for entertainment, than for analysis. Now, post-Katrina Williams, I am even more skeptical. Of late we have preferred CBS’s Scott Pelley. He at least brings some journalistic credibility with him by way of his history with the 60 Minutes program. I thought it pretty classy when, I think it was last Friday, Pelley avoided any direct comment about Williams but did put extra emphasis on the “honor and integrity” of a fellow CBS News reporter who was retiring.

    1. I can’t say from personal experience whether strong emotions cement a memory accurately. Certainly I remember lots of very emotional events in my life, some truly terrifying, but am I remembering the details accurately? I’ve no way of knowing; there’s no video to review. And we’ve all heard how radically different eye witness accounts of the same event can be. I read an interesting article last night — “Brian Williams and the Mists of Memory.” I think it made some interesting points. Most of the commenters, of course, thought the author was just being an apologist. Me, I’m still on the fence.

      I certainly wouldn’t cite “60 Minutes” as a bastion of credibility. Not after the Dan Rather and Lara Logan debacles. But yes, if Pelley has passed on joining the Williams dogpile, kudos to him.

  3. I was tempted to say, “Throw the bum out,” until I read this post and the comments. It does seem unreasonable that an intelligent, established media star would be tempted to lie about an incident he previously reported accurately. But who knows, does power corrupt and seek more power in unethical ways? Guess I’ll wait a while before trying to form an opinion.

    1. I saw this last night and as always enjoyed Stewart’s take on things. Thought he made an interesting point about the anchor face vs the BS face. It goes a bit to what I’ve been thinking about the difference between what Williams reported as an anchor and what he said off the cuff when telling war stories on a talk show. There are different standards for the two situations.

      I know I was concerned when Williams first appeared on Stewart’s show, a comedy show. It seemed too out of character for a news anchor, too likely to negatively affect his persona as a serious newsman.

  4. First, I will admit that I haven’t followed this story line very closely, nor any story for that matter. Work been keeping me ultra-busy. But what I have gathered is that the whole story of his copter being shot down several years ago was not true. Yes, one was shot down, but not his. I really have to scratch my head on this one — how would a nationally – no, internationally-known news correspondent even think that he would get by with such a lie? I’m actually very shocked he did for so long. If you or I made up this story like this, it’s not like the whole world is going to hear it. Our family, friends, but certainly not the people that were present. I cannot fathom as to how he thought he’d get away with this? Isn’t the other helicopter being shot down story enough?

    With that being said, I must get back to work.

Leave a Reply to PiedType Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s