Brian Williams Misremembers and Other Tales

Brian Williams, long-time anchor of the top-rated NBC network newscast, is in a firestorm of controversy. If you have been in a cave the last few days, he was called out on his Facebook page by a veteran who said Mr. Williams was never in a Chinook helicopter that took RPG fire in Iraq in 2003. That runs counter to a story he has often told, including on the David Letterman show, where he says he was in a helicopter that was part of a group of three “birds” that were delivering pieces of a bridge. One of the three choppers took a hit from an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade).

Mr. Williams has repeatedly said, or implied strongly that he was in the helicopter that got hit, most recently during a ceremony at a New York Rangers game honoring another veteran. In a post on the NBC news Facebook page about the Rangers event, one or more veterans left comments that Mr. Williams was never in the “bird” that was struck.

One thing led to another, and Mr. Williams apologized on air, saying he misremembered the events. The controversy grew when his apology seemed half-hearted and unconvincing.

Today, he suspended himself from his duties for a few days while an internal NBC news team is investigating his level of involvement in a number of events.

In addition to the RPG incident, here are the other stories the internal team is rechecking.

Riding With Patton During The Waning Months of WWII

During a tribute to the American military, Mr. Williams claimed he was in the tank with General George Patton as he and other military units swept through Europe in the Western Allied Invasion of Germany, hastening Germany’s surrender and the end of World War II.

Wright Brothers First Flight

In an interview with a descendant of Orville Wright, Mr. Williams mentioned he was on the famous first flight at Kitty Hawk. When the relative explained the small plane could only hold one person, Mr. Williams said he was was hanging on the tail to prevent the wind from overpowering the machine.

Signing of The Declaration of Independence

During a 4th of July NBC special, Mr. Williams suggested strongly that he was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. When pressed on this claim, he said his signature has always been unintelligible due to an old baseball injury, and as such cannot be read for proof.

Benjamin Franklin Discovers Electricity

At a 4th of July celebration in Philadelphia in 2001, Mr. Williams mentioned he was Benjamin Franklin’s assistant in July of 1752 when Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. He said it was he who came up with the idea to use a key, as Mr. Franklin was using a bell which was too heavy for the kite.

Gutenberg Printing Press

At the opening of a public library in New Jersey in 2002, Williams said that shortly after Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press around 1450, Mr. Williams began the first nightly news “broadcast,” standing on street corners in Strasbourg while reading the days freshly printed news to a still largely illiterate public.

Some supporters of Mr. Williams says that while there is no evidence he was involved with any of these events, there is also no evidence that he was not.


About Joe Ditzel

Joe Ditzel is a keynote speaker, humor writer, and really bad golfer. You can reach him via email at [email protected] as well as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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