The Brian Williams scandal fully broke in February. That was when Williams went on air on the NBC Nightly News to give a weird half-apology for “mis-remembering” a story about how he came under fire in Iraq in 2003. Except that he never came under fire, and he told like 11 different versions/lies about that one incident. Williams was quickly suspended without pay for six months while NBC underwent an internal audit of Williams’ actions, words, stories and lies. We got a taste of what the internal audit was uncovering a few weeks ago, when Vanity Fair published a fascinating and bitchy piece about the dysfunction within NBC News and the executive mishandling of Williams and crisis in general.
So, what’s new? The NYT published a gossipy, insidery piece this weekend all about the audit/investigation into Williams. Apparently, they’ve already found “a half-dozen instances” in which Williams outright lied or “misremembered” certain stories.
An NBC News internal investigation into Brian Williams has examined a half-dozen instances in which he is thought to have fabricated, misrepresented or embellished his accounts, two people with inside knowledge of the investigation said.
The investigation includes at least one episode that was previously unreported, these people said, involving statements by Mr. Williams about events from Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Arab Spring. The investigation, conducted by at least five NBC journalists, was commissioned early this year. The inquiry is being led by Richard Esposito, the senior executive producer for investigations, for the news division.
The two people with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said the episodes under review included details of the incident in Iraq in 2003; statements Mr. Williams made about a missile attack while he was traveling in another helicopter over northern Israel in 2006; and the circumstances under which he received a fragment of a helicopter that crashed during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.
It is not clear precisely which parts of Mr. Williams’s reporting from Tahrir Square have been scrutinized by NBC or what the network’s investigation shows. But discrepancies are evident in accounts given by Mr. Williams in February 2011.
In an appearance that month with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” Mr. Williams described his reporting from the square. Speaking of clashes between protesters seeking the overthrow of the Egyptian government, and a pro-government group on horses and camels, he said he had “actually made eye contact with the man on the lead horse.” Mr. Stewart then referred to reports that the pro-government group had used whips. “Yeah,” Mr. Williams replied, “he went around the corner after I saw him, they pulled out whips and started beating human beings on the way.”
The NBC News report on the clash between the protesters that day did not show Mr. Williams in Tahrir Square during the protest. Subsequent reports said that Mr. Williams was reporting “from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square,” rather than from inside the square itself, a description that matches footage that was broadcast, and that he repeated in an interview with The New York Times last year.
As we hear more stories about Williams’ many lies, a pattern has emerged: the lies are always included to make Williams look more heroic, to make it seem like he was in more danger, that he is always in the thick of it… rather than reporting from a balcony overlooking the real action. The NYT’s sources also say that the investigators are getting information and direction from NBC News employees, many of whom have apparently known about Williams’ penchant for lies and falsehoods all along. I’ve got to wonder… did Williams piss off a lot of NBC underlings? Because the knives are out for him. And yes, he’ll be fired by the end of the year. He’ll probably be fired in the next few months, actually.
Photos courtesy of WENN.