America’s “most-watched” news anchor just had a moment he probably wishes America would forget.
NBC Nightly News anchor, reporter, and wry, much-loved media personality Brian Williams is in the spotlight for his accounting of a 2003 incident in Iraq during which Williams was embedded with the U.S. Military forces.
Williams claimed he was in a helicopter that was forced to land while under attack from enemy forces, and which, specifically, was hit by an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). In fact, Williams traveled on a separate helicopter which likely took small arms fire only, and followed some distance behind the helicopter that actually took the RPG hit.
The accounting of the events in Iraq that differed from Williams’s first came to public light on social media. NBC Nightly News posted a video to Facebook on January 30th containing video of a NY Rangers game where Williams reunited with Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Terpak, who was responsible for the safety of Williams and his crew while embedded with the military in Iraq.
Williams set up the clip by recounting his time on the helicopter that came under fire, and this broadcast of the story apparently proved too much for other soldiers involved to keep silent.
Lance Reynolds, a flight engineer on the helicopter that actually took the RPG, commented on the Facebook video post that he never remembered Williams on his aircraft. Some days later, Williams responded on Facebook and admitted that he’d “conflated” his accounting of the events in Iraq, and also confirmed that he didn’t ride on the helicopter hit by the RPG.
Williams subsequently apologized on-air, as well. Neither apology reads as insincere, but they haven’t stopped media sites from pouring through all the various versions of the story over the years to find out what rings true or false, with some calling for Williams’s ouster from NBC news, and others coming to his defense.
Twitter, of course, is having a field day with hashtags, including #BrianWilliamsMemories and #BrianWilliamsMisremembers, and the video of Williams’ on-air apology is racking up the views (over 300,000, up from 257,000 from earlier this evening).
It remains to be seen how big a hit Williams’s credibility ultimately takes, but, the whole affair is a solid reminder that, these days, such mistakes have never been more visible, and credibility has never been more ephemeral.