A Cliff Notes Guide To The Brian Williams Liar Liar Pants On Fire Scandal
Unless he’s slow jammin’ the news, Brian Williams isn’t really a regular topic du jour around these parts. But since we can’t fire up our floor model TVs or open a crisp newspaper without seeing something about Brian Williams being a Liar McFibberpants this week, I figured I’d do us all a solid and boil down the controversy. You’re so welcome!
Let me just preface this by saying that I was a journalism student once upon a time. Though much to the chagrin of some of the commenters of this website, I do not consider myself a ‘journalist.’ (When they start handing out Pulitzers for hard-hitting and hilarious celebrity commentary, I’m sure I’ll be at the top of the list.) But I will say hearing snippets here and there about a renowned and respected journalist
exhibiting personality disorder tendencies possibly lying on-air to the public for OVER A DECADE makes my ears perk up. Hmmm.
Okay, so what’s this “big lie”?
We’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s set it up first: picture it, Sicily, 1925. I kid, I kid. Okay but seriously this time: on January 30th, Brian Williams claimed in a news segment that his NBC News team helicopter was shot down back in 2003 by a rocket-propelled grenade. The story was apparently meant as a tribute to the soldier who “saved their lives.” However, military newspaper Stars and Stripes (Yes, that’s its real name. Cousin to Canada’s Maple Leaf Gazette.) conducted an investigation into this story that concluded Williams’ retelling of the events wasn’t exactly true. A helicopter was shot down that day, but it wasn’t the helicopter Williams was riding in. It also appears he’s embellished this story more and more through the years. Which is just…weird.
Has anyone who was there that day spoken up about what the truth really is?
You betcha! Sgt. Joseph Miller, a flight engineer on the helicopter that was carrying Williams, says:
“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft.”
So you’re telling me Brian Williams has been sticking to this “story” for over 10 years and we’re just now hearing about it?
Uh yeah, pretty much. Though Williams has been vocal about telling this tale publicly before on his show, and also spoke of it back in 2013 on Late Night With David Letterman.
So why is this such a big deal?
Well, for starters… the first rule of journalism school is NO LYING. Now, if he worked for The Onion or if he was writing an op-ed about how anyone can be a war hero with the right story, that would be something else entirely. Do you know how seriously Americans take stories about the Iraq war? And, in this instance, for good reason: there are a lot of soldiers and civilians who experienced attacks similar to the one Williams has been claiming for himself. Also ones far, far worse than that. I don’t have to get much deeper with this, do I? You get the point. Don’t make me pander here. It’s just wrong. Very wrong. I don’t even have the time or carpal strength to type out why this is super fucked up.
Has Brian Williams made a comment?
Yes. He apologized on-air:
“On this broadcast last week in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others following a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago. It didn’t take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in the desert.”
He also issued a Facebook statement that mirrors said apology (i.e. “WHOOPSIES! Hahaha sorry guys, totally had a maj. brain fart about something really serious that happened during an incredibly significant part of our country’s modern history.”) Regardless, NBC is now reviewing his work by launching an internal investigation into his past reports on Hurricane Katrina. Oh, and spoiler alert- looks like he made up some epic shit about that, too. Honestly, it’s all just really disheartening. For me though, not America. Because I always harbored a little journalist-y crush on him. Le sigh.
Is Brian Williams’ career done-zo?
Hard to say. I suppose it depends on what information the investigation turns up, for the most part. But it also looks like the damage is done in the court of public opinion. And Twitter.
Does this have anything to do with Allison Williams getting her butt motor-boated?
OMFG, NOOOO you guys. Of course not. It has *everything* to do with her piss-poor portrayal of Peter Pan though.