FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail