“NBC News recently celebrated Brian Williams’ 10 years as anchor of “NBC Nightly News” with a promotional campaign that stressed trust and experience. Now he is in a fight for his journalistic life.
“Williams’ false statements regarding his accounts of his trip on a military helicopter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq have triggered an internal investigation at NBC News into the anchor’s versions of his story. The tale has come under attack from Iraq war veterans and spurred a growing chorus from media critics who say his job may be on the line.
“A journalism professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a former broadcast news reporter, Judy Muller, said: “if you are a journalist, your basic job description is reporting the truth, so if you are caught telling a lie – intentional or not – your credibility is going to be seriously impaired. At the very least, in the age of instant judgment, you will be Twittered into a punch line.”
“Williams has said in recent years that he was in a Chinook helicopter that was forced down by a grenade and small-arms fire, even though his original 2003 reporting said it was another helicopter in the formation that was hit. Crew members in the 159th Aviation Regiment who were on the mission disputed Williams’ account to Stars and Stripes. Williams apologized earlier this week, and he told Stars and Stripes he did not know what caused him to “conflate one aircraft with another.”
“NBC News has assigned the head of its own investigative unit to look into the statements made by Williams. Richard Esposito, a former editor at the New York Daily News now at NBC, will head the investigation. The incident has ballooned into a full-blown crisis for NBC and Williams, whose “Nightly News” is the top-rated evening news program.
Williams exclusively told Newslo: “I have made several public apologies for my earlier statements, but I just don’t know what else people want me to do? If I had the power to turn back time, believe me, I would! I would go back and make sure I never say those words, but they’re out there and I can’t take them back.”
He added: “anyway, it’s not like I’ve done much damage. It’s the freakin’ NBC, we’ve never been about the truth. As long as the dollars kept rolling in, we would have been happy reporting even Jesus’ second coming.”