The Lies of Brian Williams

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The Lies of Brian Williams

Brian Williams at the 65th annual Peabody Awards in 2006

Brian Williams at the 65th annual Peabody Awards in 2006

Creative Commons

Brian Williams at the 65th annual Peabody Awards in 2006

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Brian Williams at the 65th annual Peabody Awards in 2006

Aditi Mittal, Reporter

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“I have no desire to fictionalize my experience and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened,” said NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams recently as he attempted to justify his false words from twelve years ago. However, Williams’ actions definitely contradict this statement.

In 2003, Williams told the world that the helicopter that he and his NBC crew were flying in was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Recently, after multiple military personnel present at that scene questioned the validity of this story, the popular reporter issued a statement confessing to have fabricated it.

The ensuing media uproar and internet backlash was well warranted, as Williams, formerly admired and respected, broke one of the most important rules of journalism: the truth. Soon after the press release, countless bloggers and journalists condemned Williams for his dishonesty. The media already has a tendency towards sensationalism, and Williams only exacerbated this bias.

Williams’ personal statement is apologetic, but his apparent reasons for lying about his experiences in Iraq are vague and patchy. It seems unlikely that anyone could mistake his own helicopter for one that forced down by missiles. He claims to have been caught up in “the fog of memory over 12 years” – while twelve years may cause a person to misremember facts of the past, Brian Williams first told his feigned story in 2003, soon after he came back from Iraq. To make things worse, he repeated his lies multiple times, including once in 2013 and 2015.

Brian Williams reversed his priorities, sacrificing honest journalism for increased reverence from the public. He violated the people’s trust in him, and plausibly angered military personnel that actually encountered danger. “How could you expect anyone who served in the military to ever see this guy on-screen again and not feel contempt?” said critic David Zurawik.

Williams was known as a respectable news anchor, raising questions as to why he would fabricate such a story and put his reputation at risk. Nevertheless, his long-standing position as the face of NBC network’s news may be what saves his career. According to a poll conducted by CNN, 52% of voters said that NBC should allow him to return as anchor, and only 40% said that he should be fired.

Brian Williams is currently on a six-month suspension without pay from NBC. Although he abused his media power by lying to millions of people about his experiences in Iraq, people still have mixed feelings about him. However, Williams proved his untrustworthiness by repeating a dishonest story and incompletely justifying it, and it may be time for NBC to find a new Nightly News anchor.

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