By JERRY HOFFMAN
Well known NBC anchor Brian Williams, who has been one of the most trusted voices in news coverage for the last decade, was suspended without any payment last month.
Williams made false comments and exaggerations on a story regarding an event that involved a helicopter he was on in Iraq, back in 2003.
Prior to this expensive mistake, Williams was the host of the number one evening news show in America, which drew just over an average of 9 million viewers every night.
“I don’t know how he can ever read the news with a straight face, or how the public will respond if he does,” said Mark Feldstein, broadcast journalism professor at the University of Maryland. “Maybe they’re hoping that with a six month cooling off period, he’s got a loyal fan base.”
While many hard nosed journalists are appalled by Williams’ actions and embellishment of such a serious story, many others do not see Williams’ “tall tale” as such a terrible thing.
“Any human being who tells you they have never embellished their own life story is probably lying,” said Bob Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University. “My story of how hard it was to get home in the snow on Monday is a lot better on Wednesday. There are all kinds of new things, like abominable snowmen.”
Williams made a statement during his report that he was riding in a helicopter that had been hit by a grenade while still in the air. It was later confirmed after Williams had done the story on NBC Nightly News that it was in fact another helicopter nearby that was struck by a grenade. While this one exaggeration may not seem like such a significant mistake, a lie such as this puts Williams’ credibility as a reporter at stake for whatever is left of his career.
“Typically if a half-truth worked well once, the professional will continue to leverage it and bake it into their professional narrative,” said Matthew Randall, executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania. “Hence, Williams’ fib had become part of his career.”