NBC news anchor Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months following the revelation that he lied about a 2003 Iraq War mission. Williams had previously claimed to have been riding in a military helicopter that was hit by a grenade during the war, but is now saying that he was not actually on the helicopter at the time it was fired at. Questions were raised regarding the credibility of his story after CNN analyst Peter Bergen said on “Anderson Cooper 360” that it was impossible for Williams to have traveled with Seal Team 6, who were operating the helicopter that was shot at, as journalists are never allowed to travel with them. This event has created a lot of chaos for NBC, and they are currently debating about whether or not Williams should be fired.
One of the major issues surrounding this controversy is whether the lie was intentional or not. Williams is insisting that he misremembered the event and made a mistake when telling his story to the public, but an NBC network source states that 90 percent of the people know it is not a case of misremembering, and that the story was made up. Because it is believed that Williams blatantly lied about the Iraq War mission, it has opened the door for investigating the credibility of other events he has recalled on the air.
Prior to his suspension, Williams’ credibility on numerous other stories had been questioned internally by NBC, but it was never severe enough to raise public concern or cause a full investigation. He is now also being accused of providing false information regarding his stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. According to Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post, his story depicts a hotel filled with gangs and looters, while the manager of the hotel he was staying at insists that there was only one incident involving two looters, and that it was taken care of immediately. Similarly, according to CNN, he has been caught telling multiple versions of his encounter with Pope John Paul II, who spoke at the Catholic University Williams was attending years ago. The original story was that he did not actually speak or interact with the Pope, but, in the following years, he spoke about meeting and having a conversation with him.
In an article published by the Washington Post, it is said that Brian Williams’ storytelling ability is what helped him connect so well with viewers. However, it also points out that it is what has gotten him in trouble. While some are quick to call him a liar, it is also important to consider that it is easy to get caught up in the story you are reporting and, as a result, you exaggerate the facts. Unfortunately Williams has done more than simply exaggerate the story regarding the Iraq War mission, as his lie about being on the helicopter changes the entire situation at hand and leads to questions about if Williams was actually present when grenades were fired at this helicopter, which brings the credibility of the entire event into question. All of his colleagues at NBC insist that Williams is a great journalist with a passion for what he does, and they want to believe he did not commit any intentional deceitful acts. Whether it was a matter of getting caught up in the job is an issue still being discussed, and Williams’ future with NBC is currently being weighed by the network.