FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Crashing Lies of Brian Williams

Brian Williams, the talking hair-do at NBC Nightly News, is stepping down for a few days after reluctantly admitting he lied about being in a helicopter that was shot down while reporting in Iraq. Williams apologized, stating he was mistaken about the events that took place 12 years ago and that his chopper wasn’t hit and didn’t make an emergency landing in the Iraq desert. His real intentions, Williams exclaimed, were only to recognize the heroics of our “brave military men and women”.

Even so, Williams is still mangling the facts. He contends his helicopter was right behind the one that was actually damaged and that both crafts landed together after being shot at.  In reality, the helicopter Williams was on landed up to an hour after the first one made a crash landing.

Like many CounterPunch readers, I’ve never taken Williams as a serious journalist. The fabricated story of the chopper he was in being “forced down after being hit by an RPG” took place while he was embedded with U.S. forces in the early days of the Iraq invasion. It was these embedded reporters, with few exceptions, that presented a very distorted view of events that were taking place on the ground. As Patrick Cockburn, one of the great unembedded journalists, writes, “[embedding] leads reporters to see the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts primarily in military terms, while the most important developments are political or, if they are military, may have little to do with foreign forces.”

In short, embedded journalists often serve as conduits for government propaganda.

No doubt Williams’ journalistic integrity ought to come under scrutiny now that he’s accepting responsibility for his crash landing lies. However, it’s not just events in Iraq that he’s fabricated. As our friends over at Fair report, Williams also sensationalized his recollections of Hurricane Katrina on its fifth anniversary:

You know, I’ve been around a lot of guns and a lot of dead bodies, and a lot of people shooting at people to make dead bodies. But you put them all together and you put it in the United States of America, and boy, it gets your attention…

It was clear already there weren’t going to be enough cops… Everywhere we went, every satellite shot, every camera shot, we were at the height of the violence and the looting and the—all the reports of gunplay downtown. Well, who’s bathed in the only lights in town? It was us…

We had to ask Federal Protection Service guys with automatic weapons to just form a ring and watch our backs while we were doing Dateline NBC one night . State troopers had to cover us by aiming at the men in the street just to tell them, “Don’t think of doing a smash and grab and killing this guy for the car.”

His memory, of course, is a lot more than just a bit fuzzy. During Katrina, Williams didn’t report being in such dire circumstances, nor do official numbers back up his tall tale. At the time, there were only “six or seven deaths” that were the result of murder. Like his fake chopper saga, Williams may well be lying about what he saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well.

The dominoes are still falling. Williams has also told two different stories regarding an interview he did with Nelson Mandela in 1994 and he’s misrepresented Iran’s position on nuclear weapons on multiple occasions. Additionally, Williams hailed the Iraq invasion as “the cleanest war in all of military history” and purported that it set off a wave of democratic movements across the Middle East.

How’s that for propaganda?

We shouldn’t be surprised. Patrick L. Smith nicely sums up the state of network journalism in a recent print issue of CounterPunch magazine, “[Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw et al] are vastly too invested in the elite they aspire to join and defend. Whatever they may have been as they came up in the craft, too much money and aggrandizement has ruined them. Their work is purely clerical.”

NBC has launched its own investigation into Brian Williams’ Iraq reporting, and it’s not out of the question that the tarnished anchor may never again host the network’s flagship news program. Cheers to that.

JOSHUA FRANK is Managing Editor of CounterPunch. He is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, both published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter@brickburner.

More articles by:

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail