Brian Williams: The problem with a liar

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Photo above: Brian Williams telling David Letterman and his audience the lie about being shot down in Iraq.

Brian Williams did not make a mistake as he claimed the other day while apologizing for a lie he has been telling since 2003. In fact, he did not even claim to have lied. This is why he has to be fired by NBC. It’s one thing to get caught in a lie. And it’s another to admit you lied. However, to apologize and not admit you lied tells us you are flawed beyond correction.

Since 2003, Brian Williams, the most watched news anchor in America, has told a story of how he was traveling in a Chinook helicopter with military personnel when they were shot down in the desert in Iraq. From there, he explains how they, and three other choppers, spent “two harrowing nights in a sand storm” while waiting for help.

The only problem with the story, which he went into great detail telling David Letterman and repeated just last week on his nightly news broadcast, was he was never shot down. In fact, the company he was traveling with was headed in the opposite direction of the group of choppers that were shot down. For all we know, those two horrific nights in the desert may have involved having to eat K rations and sleep inside a Chinook without a blanket.

The media hates it when they get caught in a lie. They prefer catching others and helping make them squirm, especially those who do not cooperate with them. But when they get caught for their lies, they tend to stick up for one another and gloss over what one of their colleagues lied about.

You can bet if Brian Williams were Senator Williams and he was considering a run for the presidency in 2016, the media would not let up on him. Instead, they will describe what Williams did as a mistake because they know it could be them on the receiving end. You see, besides glorifying events and making them out to be more than they are, talking heads want viewers to see them as passionate reporters who put their lives on the line covering a story when in fact, most never do.

Brian Williams from the NBC Nightly News. He has taken himself off the air indefinitely. (YouTube)
Brian Williams from the NBC Nightly News. He has taken himself off the air indefinitely.

How can a network stand by the face of their news when he claims he made a mistake about what helicopter was shot down, his or one approximately an hour away headed in the opposite direction? I don’t know about you, but I am pretty confident saying I would remember getting shot out of the sky by rocket-propelled grenades.

I remember the guy on a motor cycle I saw get hit by a car 20 years ago and don’t for one second think it was me who was struck. I remember the kid who came to my front door over 45 years ago asking to see my Dad, a doctor, because he fell out of a tree. When he turned around, I saw the branch he impaled himself on sticking out of his back. I don’t for one second think it happened to me.

The lie Brian Williams has been telling is the worst kind because it was used to build his credibility as a journalist and to allow viewers to see him as someone who knows what war is like when he reports on it. Worse, it allowed veterans to see him as someone who has been in their shoes when in fact he hasn’t. How he could make such a claim while American men and women sacrificed their lives is reprehensible. To go into so much detail about an event that never happened has to make people wonder what other lies has he told?

Brian Williams claimed he had nothing to do with his daughter being cast as Peter Pan in NBC’s live production last year. Maybe she actually earned the gig on her own merits. However, I am sure there are people in the industry today that will question whether or not Williams got his daughter the job, which will only make her future pursuits more challenging.

Each day NBC keeps Brian Williams on the payroll is an example of a network’s lack of regard for the viewing public. They would be better off placing Chevy Chase in front of the camera and have him reprise his role as a bumbling anchorman from his SNL days.

People make mistakes. The media makes mistakes. They may get some facts wrong in their quest to get the jump on a story. They may leave some things out and not give a full account of what happened. But these are not lies as much as just being a bit too quick to report a story.

Brian Williams was not doing any this when he deliberately made up a story that never happened. If he were a journalism student in college and did this, he would get kicked out of school. Now that he is in the big leagues, he must be booted from NBC. While it may seem harsh and over reactive, just remember, when someone lies to you and you know it, you can never again be sure when he is telling you the truth.

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Editor’s note: since this was written, NBC announced Brian Williams has taken himself off the air while his network investigates the accuracy of his reporting. His coverage of Hurricane Katrina has been called into question as well.

In a statement put out by NBC, Williams said, “As managing editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.”

NBC News president Deborah Turness added, “This has been a difficult few days for all of us at NBC News. As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired. We’re working on what the best next steps are.”