Brian Williams and the Lost Art of the Public Apology

Brian Williams Lie Iraq

Brian Williams is sorry. The NBC anchor said so on his nightly newscast, on Facebook and in the pages of Stars and Stripes, the magazine that first unearthed his repeated lies about flying in a helicopter struck by an RPG over a decade ago in Iraq.

And yet it’s not enough.

It’s not that being apologetic isn’t adequate repentance for Williams’ sin. What isn’t enough is the nature of the apology he is offering. Like so many wayward public figures who aren’t getting the right damage-control advice, Williams seems to believe apologizing early and often will take care of the problem without giving sufficient attention to how they say they are sorry.

Williams and NBC Universal–which may be sweating even more than the anchor is about his future as the face of its news division–probably think they did their best just by addressing the situation head-on in multiple outlets. To make such an apology from the very anchor desk where so many Americans trust him to be unfailingly honest was intended to acknowledge the gravity of his fabrication.

But the substance of what Williams said, and the absence of even feigned contrition in his delivery, only made his predicament worse.

Let’s start with the wording of his statement. First, the utterance “I made a mistake” should be retired by all crisis-PR experts for the rest of eternity. It is a sentence intended to sound forthright and remorseful in all its unambiguous pithiness. But overuse over the years has turned “I made a mistake” into the opposite of what it should be; it’s such a stock phrase, it basically signifies nothing beyond doing what shamed public figures feel they have to do.

In situations where household names like Williams shock us with their misdeeds, people are more interested in hearing some sense of why the sinner in question did what they did than just blurting out “I’m sorry.” Williams attempted to do this by offering what seems like a unbelievable excuse: the “fog of memory” led him to confuse the unharmed helicopter he was actually in with another helicopter that took fire.

Really?

It doesn’t take a four-star general to remember correctly whether the aircraft they were in was struck by a missile.

But perhaps Williams could have even garnered some forgiveness for even such a far-fetched alibi had he squeezed even a scintilla of emotion into his written and oral apologies. This is where Williams and so many celebrities have gone wrong when the right words could actually do a lot to pull their feet out of the fire.

From Paula Deen to Amy Pascal, it’s amazing how many public apologies are such bloodless, over-calculated nothingburgers that they do more harm than good.

Imagine had Williams spent more than just a minute at an anchor desk–perhaps even a good 10 minutes in a YouTube video, or even a whole hour on “Dateline NBC”–really speaking from the heart (or faking such sincerity).

Be authentic, even vulnerable. Agonize a little. Don’t cry if it doesn’t come naturally, but emote as if your career depends on it because–guess what?–it does.

Last year provided a decent example of a star who managed to do this correctly. Recall the accusations of homophobia Jonah Hill faced when he uttered some  unfortunate epithets in a TMZ video. He went on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and either gave a performance even better than his role in “Moneyball” or resembled an actual choked-up, torn-up human being.

What if Williams had dropped the robo-anchor persona and, rather than saying he got confused, spoke at length on camera about what really happened that day. The sight of a genuinely repentant individual could go a long way to repairing his reputation.

All this criticism of Williams may sound unsympathetic, but to the contrary: If he makes the right moves, a man who by all other indications is a good person who, like all of us sometimes, made an unfortunate mistake can turn this around. It’s not too late to save his career.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 72

Leave a Reply

72 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

  1. zyggie says:

    A lie is a lie and a liar is just that. Lost credibility as a reporter is the end results.

    We continue to get incorrect information from all areas of this society and people depended on truthful reporting NOT reporting done to make the reporter famous. When you trust reports and expect the truth from those who have the powers to find out, it is such a let down. Reporting to increase the public’s emotion is just dumb.

    There is too much going on in this world to keep getting inaccurate information. What happened to reporting the truth nothing but?

  2. RealityCheck says:

    Is this really what we’re distracted by with all the real issues in the world? Come on, people–let’s get our eye on the ball and stop with this.

  3. zyggie says:

    Bottom line is Brian lied. A lie is a lie.

    Some may try to justify that lie but it’s still there. Betterment of a career, to make himself look like the guy who would get out there and get the story no matter what. He still lied. Credibility. respect for not only the public but, himself is tarnished. I for one, really trusted his reporting.

    He will survive this he made a hugh mistake but, somewhere back in our minds we will never respect or trust him totally again. I wish him well and hope he can live with what he did.

    • Tabins777 says:

      I have always like Brian Williams. Yes he could have done a better job of an apology, but in this day and age, who hasn’t lied? You think we get the truth from our Presidents? I hope he gets his job back.
      Good Luck Brian.

  4. Carol Schumann says:

    What’s with NBC? You treat Ann Curry bad (I no longer watch Today) and now it cannot forgive Brian Williams. Well IF he is fired then I not only will not watch “The Today Show” I will no longer watch NBC period. A lot of others who feel the same way.

  5. Nicholas P. Schiavone says:

    Why are NBC News President Deborah Turness and
    NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Patricia Fili-Krushel
    never held responsible for the complete mess
    they appear to have made of NBC News over time?

    It’s not Brian Williams that needs to answer the big question,
    it’s another Brian! It’s Brian Roberts of Comcast!

    Where does Roberts really stand on business ethics, journalistic integrity and the fools seemingly running the businesses that are intended to serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity?”

    Perhaps Brian Roberts feels most comfortable with the “vast wasteland” that his corporation serves up in all other domains.

    What is Comcast’s modus vivendi & modus operandi?
    Profits über Alles!
    — in Manhattan, New York.

    • Terry Dubois says:

      This is precisely the issue at hand, as Schiavone as so pointedly explained. This is way bigger than Brian’s bravado, for lack of a better word. The story should be about what Turness and Fili-Krushel have done to the NBC News division over the last few years. They could not be MORE tone deaf. They must stay in their respective offices and pour over the latest ratings and profit and loss statements. Et tu, Brian Roberts? What say you about the “executives” that report to you? Are they good money counters?

  6. Brian Williams is a good man, interesting to watch, and has made a mistake. Who among us can
    deny making mistakes. Let us join togather and ask that he be allowed to continue to do his job,
    in which I feel that he does a good job!!

    • Barbara Davis says:

      He is not a good man and he didn’t make a mistake……he deliberately lied to make himself look like a hero. Heroes are the men and women in our military not this pantywaist reporter. I am so glad that he was exposed as the lying fraud he is. You lie as an American news anchor you lose your credibility and decency and you need to go……

  7. TJ says:

    so its ok to lie continuosly for most of his career is ok as long as he apologizes in the right fashion. This author is as out of touch as Williams.

    • gmacx says:

      No, I think what the article is saying is that it’s okay to lie continuously for most of his career as long as he, then, lies convincingly enough to make everyone think that he apologizes in the right fashion.

      The author is part of a group of narcissists who, clearly, think that all apologies are bulls**t calculated for the sole sake of damage control. The author is literally awe-struck that a fellow psychopath could pull of a bold faced lie of an apology good enough to actually “resembled an actual choked-up, torn-up human being.”

      I’m honestly a little freaked out by the glimpse that this plutocrat has given us into the mentality of high society.

  8. Nicholas P. Schiavone says:

    The distorted nature of this problem is epitomized by the headline of this and other news stories

    There is only one question that is closed. Brian Williams, NBC News, NBCUniversal and Comcast ought to tell the truth … always.

    Mr. William is an employee of NBC News and should be held to defined standards of professional journalistic practice.

    NBCUniversal and Comcast have certain ethical responsibilities to the US Public, their business partners and their ethical employees.

    To suggest that Brian Williams is doing everyone a public service by absenting himself from “NBC Slightly (sic) News” is illustrative of dishonest and irresponsible personal and corporate behavior.

    Mr. Williams apology was no apology. It was a lame excuse for extreme and inappropriate hubris covered with “saccharine” expressions of respect and appreciation for heroic US Service People.

    Comcast and NBCUniversal need to decide whether they want to serve the American Public through responsible journalism and quality entertainment and sports — or turn one more programming format into disgusting and degrading Reality TV and worse.

    In his first speech after he was appointed chairman of the FCC by President John F Kennedy, Newton Minow referred to American commercial television programming as a “vast wasteland” and advocated for programming in the public interest. He told the NAB:

    “When television is good, … nothing is better. … But when television is bad, nothing is worse. … I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few.”

    “Variety,” as a major, respected journalistic institution in America and the World, please make certain that you frame issues in a manner that hold all members of industry fully accountable and focused on the real issues, ethical behavior and simply the truth.

    NBC News should not “avoid firing Brian Williams,” if it is ethically right to do so. And if NBC News does not fire Brian Williams, it needs to explain how its decision to retain William is a decision based on total integrity in every way.

  9. zyggie says:

    In my eyes he has…Lost his credibility and lost my respect.

    What happened to the real news men or women who reports the truth, facts and respects the process of reporting. It was/is so unfair to all those in every branch of our military (past/present) to have someone take credit or put themselves in positions where they are equal to our service people.

    It’s unfair to those who are not with us any longer, our wounded warriors and service people who are back with us trying to survive in this world. I have worked on military bases and am in awe of what our military does. While we as civilians enjoy our lives away from danger, some forget the sacrifices our military go thru to keep us safe. That respect was/is earned and never forgotten.

    Shame on Brian Williams for his falseness, A lie is a lie. I really think he has hurt himself.

  10. Greggers says:

    If Mr. Williams was truly the professional he conveys that he is, he would have already resigned. He should know that personal embellishments involving himself in historic events is completely out of bounds. It’s not about apologizing.

  11. The only thing a purportedly “honest” person has to offer to the world is, the Truth.

    Progressives are so eager to claim others are liars, yet they so often and so easily excuse lying by their own.

    • amskeptic says:

      Well Patriotic American, let’s see how you are with the truth. The country that your flag avatar represents, killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis based not on “faulty intelligence”, but a stunning hubris courtesy the pathological world view of Dick Cheney and friends. Please note: this is not about scoring cheap points against progressives or whatever your petty trite little belief system is stuck on, this is about the arc of humanity. Seriously.

    • Jim says:

      Please, get a grip – this is about an individual and using it in an attempt to discredit a political movement you don’t agree with is dishonest – a lie.

  12. One Voice says:

    Was his embellishment just a fish tale, or did it alter pertinent history? If it was just a fish tale, forget about it. His career consists of making news interesting, it just spilled over into his own life. Not too uncommon with every day folks. Chill, people.

    • amskeptic says:

      “His career consists of making news interesting” that is some kind of cheapening of the noble mission of the 4th estate. We are a democracy that demands an informed citizenry. Williams lost sight of the critical role of journalism. If a slack-jawed mouth-breathing doritos dog breath lazyboy reclinered human vegetable doesn’t find the real news “interesting” enough, well, there is no cure.

  13. Karen Young says:

    I think it’s clear that Williams just decided – perhaps in the moment somewhere – that being in a helicopter that was shot down just made a more exciting story than the truth, so he was going to tell THAT story. Stupid and childish, but something a lot of people do. Just not national news anchors. I’m guessing he wasn’t thinking about the possible consequences when he so “embellished” his story. I imagine admitting to that in public would be hard, and I don’t think it would help him keep his job if he did. Lying about your own actions in that way is not as bad as lying about someone you’re REPORTING on, but I still think his credibility is shot, no matter what he says or how he says it, and he needs to go. It’s too bad because I thought he was good. I’ll never forget his reporting from Katrina.

  14. Tim says:

    He was in a chinook that took small arms fire. The object they were hauling, and another helicopter in the same formation both took RPG hits. Sometimes RPG’s don’t explode when hitting an object. It isn’t a huge distinction between the helicopter getting hit versus the object it is hauling getting hit. Maybe the pilots were saying “we took rpg fire” when they meant the cargo instead of the chopper. Sitting inside hearing the noise of explosions and bullets hitting the frame, would you know the difference?

    • mcfeagle says:

      Tim, he was in a chinook that was an HOUR behind the actual chinook that was forced down.

      He fabricated even being near the danger. Please read the article in Stars and Stripes where the ACTUAL soldiers on board were interviewed. It’s an eye-opening piece.

  15. Mona says:

    Good Bye Brian!
    The gall to place yourself as an equal to the young men of this country is a shame. Am I now supposed to believe anything I hear from NBC when they don’t even vet their spokesperson B.S.story?

  16. Kevin K. says:

    No surprise. Williams has been nothing more than a corporate shill and political mouthpiece for years. He deserves worse than what he’ll probably get.

  17. Vino says:

    The guy lied. End of story. He must go.

  18. rene says:

    I use to watch Mr, Williams show, but now I don’t thrust him any more, n is for me he is done, is not way how we’ll know if he is telling the truth or just exaggerations, is good for NBC news to cancel his contract if the company wants to keep their reputation, because no one is happy with this action, and he is not a liar he just betrayed the entire world, starting for his own family, how long he been doing this action ………..

  19. Nope. Sorry. Williams is done. Doesn’t matter what he says or does at this point, because the fact of the matter is that he flat-out lied about a life-or-death situation under the color of NBC News. Deborah Turness has to can him now, or she loses her job as well; she’s already screwed up a few times too often, and my guess is that her time at NBC will likely end with her decision about Williams in the next 24 hours. The network simply cannot apologize for a guy who just completely made up his role in a highly charged situation such as this, and then totally botched his so-called apology. Williams is now very damaged goods, and he simply has to go; I just can’t imagine how any spin-control is possible, because he got caught in an extremely silly and embarrassing lie. By all accounts, he seems to be a helluva good guy, but already he’s being portayed in social media as a big-shot anchor who desperately wanted to be a hero, and well, just wasn’t. It’s a very sad (and yes, even tragic) end to his great career, but how can it play out any other way?

  20. Integrity cancer says:

    I am deeply disappointed and now worried that my favorite news man, Brian Williams, is going to either be fired or resign. I love his broadcast and I DVR the Nightly News everyday when I get off work as a law enforcement officer. He violated the public trust. In my profession, if proven true, it could cost me my certifications and my job. I say “could” due to “mitigating circumstances” some officers (often times due to cronyism) get off without any discipline, and that is very frustrating. Generally, if “you lie you die.”

  21. Peter Scarlet says:

    Let’s look at the words Mr. Williams used, as Brian Steinberg reported in Variety on February 4:
    “I would not have chosen to make this mistake.”
    Really? He ‘would not have chosen’? But he did choose! Does he think someone else did? Are we to believe the ‘mistake’ was imposed on him by some outside force?

    His comments brought to mind Amy Pascal’s initial “apology”:
    ‘The content of my emails were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am.’ So who is it her words reflect?

    What these incidents indicate is that the egos of powerful media figures can be so out of touch with reality that they appear to think it’s somebody else who makes their “mistakes”, somebody else who’s reflected in their emails. As Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was describing political leaders. but today’s media brokers such as network anchors and studio bosses (not to mention actors, directors, etc.) seem to be no less out of touch with reality than Kim Jong-un!
    NBC’s persistent, repeated, and (to borrow a phrase from the NY Times’s Alessandra Stanley) grandiloquent promotion of Brian Williams is hardly an isolated incident – CNN does exactly the same thing with its anchors.

  22. Drake L.A. says:

    if his apology wasn’t very good it’s because it wasn’t an apology at all. it was simple “backpedalling.” you forgot to mention that the apology itself contained a lie about his proximity to the helicopter that actually was attacked.

  23. GozieBoy says:

    Soooo, Williams’ big screw up in this episode is that he did not FAKE enough emotion to get out of his hot water? Say the same thing, but make sure you have a crocodile tear in your eye, and all will be forgiven? Bite your lips and quiver your voice a little like professional liar Bubba after he is caught (after a million other abuses of women) with his pants down with a barely legal intern in the Oval Office, and “we still love ya”? This is why mature, responsible, thinking adults hate loony lib Dems. They live by the Gruber philosophy.

    • DK says:

      But lying about WMDs to justify a false war is somehow mature & responsible?

    • Kevin K. says:

      Got news for ya… Brian Williams is about as liberal as Mitt Romney. That is, only as much as his paycheck allows.

      And let me guess, to you, lying to get your country into a couple of made-up wars isn’t as bad as lying about a b.j.? That’s why mature, responsible, thinking adults *are* loony lib Dems.

  24. JSB says:

    He apparently has gone to the Roger Clemens school of explaining his “misremembering” – who invents words like this? Guys who’ve spent over a decade lying – yes, that is the word.

  25. Bill says:

    Emotion in this case would have made it even WORSE.

    He screwed up big time, was caught in an effective “stolen valor” situation and has effectively put even people who aren’t already wary of network news in the position of having to take everything Williams and NBC News reports with a large grain of salt.

    This and the editing of the George Zimmerman 911 call point to rather greater systemic issues at NBC.

  26. jimbobogie says:

    He’s a so-called journalist who was proven to be a liar. This isn’t just some story told to friends-he repeated it on the air…if you’re doing one of those phony late-night comedy-news shows you can get away with it, but not if you’re the “Voice” and “Face” of your network’s news department.

    NBC has to show him the door ASAP.

  27. Jeff Denker says:

    Andrew has said it well. More, a true brush with combat is never ‘forgotten.’ To baldly co-opt such an honor is the work of an overblown ego – witness the tin-thin apology. No, no conflating, no fog of war here. This is the stuff of arrogance.

  28. RoccoRolo says:

    Wow, that was one bloody awful “apology” and few things are more pathetic — except maybe the ultra-hypocritical bullsht-spewing liberals who try to downplay this kind of abject and pathological mendacity.

    The apology was as mendacious as the fake war story he bestowed on himself.

    “If you like your phony war story, you get to keep your phony war story … period.”

    • Kevin K. says:

      Wow, that’s a lot of big words!

      • RoccoRolo says:

        How verbally depleted you must be if you think “mendacious” and “hypocritical” classify as “big words.” Sorry you’re so confused by the English language.

        Let me use small words you might (just perhaps) understand: go sit and spin dumbass.

  29. Wow. Now that I’ve seen this, kinda reminds me of “Broadcast News”.

  30. Chris says:

    I really think Williams needs to see a shrink and figure this out. He seems disassociated from reality.

    It would be one thing if he lied once and now said: “I lied. I’m sorry.” Then he might be okay. Bloodied and with a lot of repair work to do, but okay

    The truly weird thing about this is he initially told the truth in his reporting on the air. And then, seemingly forgetting this, he began to lie and kept lying for years, until last week. Even though, the whole time, the rebuttal to his lie was his own words, on videotape.

    • RoccoRolo says:

      It’s the same kind of narcissism and constant wishy-washy “conflation” that pervades liberal politicians and media figures. See Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and so on….

      Williams was hoping he could claim “conflation” and that would be the end of it. The trouble is, it’s blatant in-your-face deliberate self-promoting fabrication in which he’s beencaught red-handed.

      • RoccoRolo says:

        @Kevin — I’m sorry, I must have missed the part where a conservative went around on national television passing off made-up war stories as personal experience.

        I’m sure I would have read or watched something about that on some fraudulent, partisan, propagandist liberal-media “news” outlet like CNN or NBC or the NYTimes.

        “If you like your phony war story, you get to keep your phony war story … period.”

      • Kevin K. says:

        Oh yeah, conservatives *never* lie. And Fox News is the last bastion of truth in this country. An entire news network designed specifically to deceive it’s viewership. Someone’s got the blinders on.

        And Brian Williams, a “liberal media figure”? That’s a good one.

  31. John Miller says:

    After Nancy Snyderman got zero real punishment for what she did, I am guessing that Williams has little to fear. It seems that, if you are one of the “chosen” at NBC/MSNBC, you are going to be okay no matter what you do.

    • Jeff Denker says:

      I would suggest that Brian runs in a bigger circle of egos than that at insular NBC. One where the firsthand experience of war is the ultimate trump card.

  32. I didn’t see what he claimed before, or the apology afterward, but I’m ok with Brian Williams being stoic about it. I like Brian Williams on NBC News, and this episode isn’t going to change that (unless I find out that he actually harmed someone). I don’t know if creating the story about being in a damaged helicopter actually got him promoted to his current job or not, and I don’t know how many people may have been damaged as a result, but from where I sit he’s done an A-OK job with the news. I’ve noticed that many successful people have done shady things to advance their careers. If nobody was hurt as a result of his “foggy memory”, I forgive the man- no tears necessary!

    • RoccoRolo says:

      Maybe if you ask nicely, he’ll let you shine his shoes with your tongue. He can regale you with tales of his blowing up the Death Star as you work those loafers to a high gloss.

  33. Goodbyenoway says:

    This isn’t eyewitness testimony. He says he was in a helicopter that was shot down and that he feared for his life as he spent 2 nights in the copter.

    It never happened. You don’t “misremember” something like that especially when your job is being a journalist.

  34. Goodbyenoway says:

    Small arms fire is not “being hit with an RPG.”

    He lied. That’s a fact. He did it in various places over a decade adding and subtracting as he saw fit.

    The whole spectacle is disgraceful and his obfuscations last night were sickening.

  35. Bill Baehr says:

    He needs to go to show that NBC has respect for the truth.

  36. Lex says:

    He needs to step down. He lied and his credibility is forever toast. NBC needs to cut its losses.

  37. NBC needs to let him go. I like his news persona, but our democracy relies on trustworthy journalists. That does not mean that every story is going to tell an objective truth. But this lie is just a selfish act with the result that it makes his story and persona look more admirable. The admiration for honesty must be greater than bravery (or the appearance of it). Journalists have the job of attempting extreme honesty. Anything else is less significant. If a journalists risks her or his life to get the truth, great! But the truth is the point, not risk of life.

  38. Goodbyenoway says:

    How can one accept an apology that is, itself, filled with yet more lies?

    • aunt teresa says:

      Why are so many calling actions and comments made by media superstars like Brian Williams and Amy Pascal “unfortunate mistakes”? Why not call them what they are: immoral blunders. Yes – we’ve all made them – in differing degrees.But these folks are in charge of our media communications – they have put themselves in a place to inform the world. While the rest of us have to deal with offended friends and acquaintances and red faces and social snubs – these folks must do the same but commensurate with their salaries and positions – must fall. The majority of us – although equally fallible – do not profess to “speak” for the culture – and will make our amends as we must. And learn from their disgrace. These folks, however, have a greater responsibility – given their greater visibility – not to mention their greater paychecks for holding such honors! – and SHOULD be held to a higher standard. Let them both fall from grace – without pity.

  39. CDarcy says:

    Meh. I doubt his career was ever i jeopardy. Maybe the apology was littled lack lust but who cares. That discrepency is so trivial in comparison to a certain news outlet that lied in the wake of the Charlie massacre that I can’t be bothered to give a bleep. Call me cynical but the whole thing barely merited a raised eyebrow for me. That said you are right that the apologies coming from public figures (new, political and otherwise) are increasing hollow sounding. It’s reached a point where it’s become so formulaic I can virtually mouth the apology along with them.

    • Drake L.A. says:

      i think you’re mixing apples and oranges. most news organizations are guilty at times of hyperbole, fact-twisting, bias, sloppy fact-checking, manipulative editing, the list goes on. what Brian Williams did goes directly to a person’s character and integrity. it’s a level of distrust that makes you question his mental acuity, much less his reporting. He’s like a Jayson Blair who never got busted maybe because he was too affable for anyone to care.

  40. TV Watcher says:

    What’s lost is the art of proper apology acceptance, which is: apology accepted but you still have to face the consequences. My children were taught this at a young age; I’m not sure why so many adults have trouble grasping the concept.

  41. Goodbyenoway says:

    You can’t be serious. He told the lie over and over again for a decade in great detail. And it turns out not a word of it was true. That’s not the fog of war. Even his explanation last night was full of holes and lies.

    He is either a habitual liar or he’s seriously mentally ill. There’s no other rational explanation.

    • Paidraic says:

      I suppose you’re replying to my comment. For what it’s worth, you’re actually incorrect. He did not tell the same story in the same detail for over a decade. It’s well documented how it transformed over time. As for not a word being true, again, you’re mistaken: even the Chinook pilot vouches that they took small arms fire. Look, if I were a betting man, I too would probably agree that he just lied; I’m not defending him. But I also believe we need to be accurate and less emotional about these things instead of being so dogmatically sure about our opinions.

  42. Paidraic says:

    For what it’s worth, while Mr. Williams could have apologized more “sincerely,” it’s incorrect and unforgiving to dismiss his explanation as “unbelievable.” The fog of memory he clumsily describes is a very real trick of the mind (please talk to a psychologist who specializes in the area). I don’t know if this was truly what happened or if he intentionally lied, but we should be careful when assessing the sincerity of others.

    • TV Watcher says:

      If Brian Williams can’t report accurately about something that he was a direct eyewitness to, how can we trust anything the entire news organization states as fact? This isn’t an issue of shading, nuance, or interpretation, it’s a direct and straightforward event with many witnesses. This is a very serious issue, very different that the standard ‘I’m sorry if what I said offended anyone’ business.

      • He made it sound like it took 12 years for the story to change this way. It’s not difficult to find his early reports. This was a blatant “embellishment” to be generous. Now, I grew up with an old family member who frequently would tell people not to let the truth get in the way of a good story, but he wasn’t a news reporter. Fabricated news is worse than no news at all.

      • Paidraic says:

        Hi — it’s well documented, first, that eyewitness testimony is unreliable (please just look this up) and that memories can become embellished over time or immediately. Law enforcement and the judicial system has a heck of a time with this problem, actually. Again, he may very well have just made it all up to make himself feel better (or for prestige, etc.) — all I know is that none of US know that, so why the conviction among so many people that he’s some malevolent character? I think NBC sure has the responsibility to investigate this further, regardless.

        As for the news organizations, you SHOULD NOT trust what they say, right? I don’t mean that in a conspiratorial way; rather, we should be critical consumers of any media source. Sometimes they distort “facts” purposely or by accident. I think the Williams’ tale just underscores the need for us to be more suspect of what the news reports.

  43. Goodbyenoway says:

    What is he is sorry for? Getting caught? He has repeatedly told these same lies for over a decade. It’s not a mistake, it’s blatant deception. And he doesn’t realize that or won’t admit it.

    He should be fired or NBC has no credibility.

    • Chris Shafer says:

      As a Marine who served in Viet Nam He has lost his integrity. I will always look at as a liar.

      • No bias here says:

        Williams has never been very bright. On Letterman in 2008 he likened the coming Presidential election to the 1960 election between Kennedy and Eisenhower. Letterman politely choose not to embarrass him by pointing out that the famous election was between Kennedy and Nixon.

More TV News from Variety

Loading