Brian Williams has quickly plummeted to a low point in his career.
Williams, who anchored “NBC Nightly News” until he received a six-month suspension last week, went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot.
Some NBC insiders have speculated that Williams will not be able to come back from the scandal that has engulfed him since he admitted to embellishing a story from his coverage of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Williams recounted the story several times over the past 12 years, exaggerating his role in the incident over time. Most recently, he said he was traveling in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, but after a veteran involved in the event questioned his story, Williams admitted he was actually riding in another helicopter that was about 30 minutes behind the one that was hit.
Williams said in 2008 that he “was at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall came down,” but that is most likely an exaggeration, as CNN reports.
Although Williams was in Berlin in 1989 to report on the fall of the Berlin Wall for WCBS-TV in New York, Tom Brokaw was the only American anchorman to report live from the scene the night the wall actually fell on November 9, CNN notes.
Brian Williams started embellishing his stories because he felt insecure following in Tom Brokaw’s very large footsteps at NBC, according to a new report.
The network handed Williams a six-month suspension in February after he acknowledged he had lied about being on board a helicopter that came under fire while reporting from Iraq in 2003.
But according to a report in Vanity Fair, Williams started exaggerating his stories because he felt insecure about Brokaw, whom he succeeded at Nightly News in 2004.
The article also claimed that when he was called out for lying in his reports and conversations following the 2003 helicopter incident, Williams couldn’t bring himself to admit he had made it up – and instead, he suggested he might have a brain tumor.
‘(He said,) ‘Did something happen to (my) head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head’,’ a source said.
In February, Williams was forced to admit that he wasn’t aboard the helicopter that was hit and forced down by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 – a story he had often repeated over the past 12 years.
Iraq War, 2003
Over the years, Williams has told multiple versions of a story about being in an Army Chinook helicopter during the Iraq War in 2003.
Earlier this year, he claimed his helicopter was hit by ground fire, an allegation he was later forced to admit was false after an outcry from soldiers who were present.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005
He has claimed to have seen a dead body float past the window of his hotel in the city’s French Quarter – even though the area wasn’t flooded.
The accuracy of other Katrina claims, including that he caught dysentery drinking the flood waters and that his hotel was ‘overrun’ with gangs, have been called into question by others who were on the ground during the disaster.
In a 2007 interview with Fairfield University Student Television, Williams recalled ‘Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in’ during a trip to Israel.
In fact he was nowhere near enemy fire and in a broadcast segment filmed that day he described rocket fire ‘six miles away’.
A Navy vet accused Williams of lying to skip an event honoring members of the Armed Forces so that he could appear on Saturday Night Live.
On the day of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society event the NBC News anchor told organizers that a ‘pressing engagement’ meant he wouldn’t be able speak at the dinner, but later that evening he appeared in a walk-on role on SNL’s Weekend Update.
NBC confirmed for the first time today that the internal investigation into Williams revealed further untruths. He was suspended in February when it was revealed that he had greatly exaggerated a story about a 2003 mission in Iraq.
Other Williams untruths and exaggerations are believed to have included a claim that he saw bodies floating in New Orleans’ French Quarter following Hurricane Katrina, and during a report following the earthquake in Haiti.