Things are going downhill fast for famed NBC News anchor Brian Williams.
Williams is known as one of the most trusted news anchors in the US, but according to the New York Post, his former mentor Tom Brokaw now says he wants him fired after Williams admitted to exaggerating a story from his coverage of the Iraq invasion.
Williams’ reporting about Hurricane Katrina has also been disputed since the scandal began, and a soldier who initially backed up some elements of the anchor’s Iraq tale says he is now “questioning my memories.”
Last Friday, Williams said on NBC that while he was in Iraq in 2003, he was flying in a helicopter that “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” It’s a story he has told on multiple occasions, including on the Late Show with David Letterman (3:00 into the video).
But this narrative turned out to be false — after Williams repeated the story last week, crew members who were on the helicopter that was actually hit by a rocket-propelled grenade came forward to say that Williams was on another helicopter that arrived at the crash site later.
An NBC source told the Post: “Brokaw wants Williams’ head on a platter. He is making a lot of noise at NBC that a lesser journalist or producer would have been immediately fired or suspended for a false report.”
Brokaw was the anchor of NBC “Nightly News” before Williams took over in 2004. Audiences for network news broadcasts have declined in recent years but “Nightly News” currently has more total viewers than its competition on ABC and CBS, making Brian Williams America’s premiere news anchor.
The source who spoke to the Post said Brokaw and former NBC News President Steve Capus have known for a long time that Williams was spreading a false story. They reportedly warned him against it.
Another “longtime NBC employee who has worked with Williams on several occasions” told the Post “everyone” at the network knew Williams was “a liar.”
In an email to the Huffington Post, Brokaw disputed the Post report. However, CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter also reported Williams’ Iraq story has led to turmoil inside NBC:
What I hear from inside NBC: confusion like I’ve never heard before. And some fear.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 6, 2015
On Wednesday night’s broadcast, Williams apologised for his “bungled” story about getting shot down in Iraq.
Williams’ story began to unravel after video of last Friday’s broadcast that included the story was posted on the “NBC Nightly News” Facebook page. A Facebook user named Lance Reynolds who claimed to have been on board the helicopter that was shot down while Williams was in Iraq commented on the video disputing his story.
“Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft,” Reynolds wrote.
Williams responded with a comment from his verified Facebook account admitting he made a “mistake.”
“You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy,” wrote Williams. “I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp.”
Following the exchange, Williams told military newspaper Stars and Stripes that over the years, he mistakenly “conflated” his helicopter for the one that actually did get forced to the ground by RPG fire. In a subsequent comment Reynolds said he accepted Williams’ apologies.
“I appreciate the timely response by Brian Williams to correct the story and set the record straight. I would not want to speculate on why the mistake was made. I personally accept his apology,” Reynolds wrote.
On Thursday, Former Chief Warrant Officer Rich Krell, who piloted the helicopter Williams flew in during the incident, spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper. Though he said Williams was wrong to claim they were shot down by an RPG, Krell backed up some of the anchor’s story and said their aircraft “took small arms fire.” Other crew members dispute this account.
However, on Friday, Krell told CNN’s Brian Stelter he was “questioning” his own account.
“The information I gave you was true based on my memories, but at this point I am questioning my memories that I may have forgotten or left something out,” Krell said, adding, “For the past 12 years I have been trying to forget everything that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan; now that I let it back, the nightmares come back with it, so I want to forget again.”
NBC has not responded to multiple emails from Business Insider asking whether Williams will face any disciplinary action.
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