Thursday, February 05, 2015


Yes, Brian Williams recently claimed that he was in a helicopter that was hit by an RPG while reporting in Iraq in 2003, and yes, his version of this story has changed over the years -- in earlier tellings, he accurately stated that his helicopter was behind the one that was actually hit. I'm supposed to be appalled and scandalized, but I'm deferring to John Cole on this, not just because he's a veteran and you probably aren't, any more than I am, but because he's right about the fact that memory can be tricky thing even for people who aren't millionaire talking heads, and because Williams uttered this falsehood while trying to honor a soldier who defended him while he was in Iraq, then rapidly (and I'd say sincerely) apologized. In the past I've pointed out that a story John McCain told in a 2008 campaign ad about his POW years -- that a kind-hearted guard secretly drew a cross in the sand to commemorate Christmas -- was never mentioned in McCain's earlier accounts of his imprisonment, and the anecdote is strikingly similar to stories that appear in other well-known accounts of imprisonment. But I'm not sure McCain is cynically lying when he says this -- at this point, he may really believe it happened. My father died when I was young, but I suspect his World War II stories would have become more dramatic over time. I think that's just how it is with strong memories.

But here's the key point about Williams: Whatever you think of him, this was not a distortion of the news. We need an informed citizenry, and Williams may not be doing a very good job of informing the public about what it needs to know -- his nightly news broadcasts are heavy on fluff -- but his claim didn't misrepresent any critical fact about the war itself. It wasn't Lara Logan deceiving the public about Benghazi or Judy Miller defrauding the public on Iraqi WMDs. It was just about Williams himself. Condemn them all, sure -- but remember that what Logan and Miller did was far worse, because they misinformed the public about critical issues. Williams just misinformed the public about Williams.


Philo Vaihinger said...

Yes, he misinformed the public about himself and it requires excessive charity to not say outright that not only did he lie but he even set up the lie by progressively altering his story over the years.

Not a good thing, but hardly the end of the world.

And it is perfectly possible that on some other occasion he has never spoken of he faced danger just as great, doing his job as a journalist.

Victor said...

I agree with you and Cole.

However, it's worth remembering that Dan Rather lost his job for reporting what was almost certainly the truth about W.

But I don't think Williams should be fired.

Roger said...

If only Brian had liberated a concentration camp without leaving Hollywood, or shot looters in Nawleans, he'd be a real American.

Me, I'm going to retroactively boycott the NBC Nightly News for the last 12 years, and stop watching The Tonight Show.

Anonymous said...

How very kind and tolerant you are concerning the, er, confused Mr. Williams. I wonder how your post would have read were it a Fox News reporter who lied and lied and lied again?

BKT said...

Easy enough to find out, duff-- just search the blog for keywords like "Hannity," "Doocy" or "O'Reilly."

account a biliary account a biliary said...

Don't see a difference between Brian Williams lying bout being under fire and Hillary Clinton lying about being under fire. When they were caught in the lies, Brian apologized and Hilary said she "mis spoke because she was tired". I get it, we all think we're being shot at when we're tired. Brian gets reprimanded and the media gives her a pass. God help us !!!