NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has apologized for falsely claiming he was riding in a military helicopter that was shot at in Iraq in 2003. (NBC publicity photo)
Emerson’s Journalism faculty—including former ABC World News Tonight anchor Carole Simpson—are reacting to the troubling story that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams repeatedly lied about being shot at inside a U.S. military helicopter in 2003.
Responding to reports that NBC may not discipline Williams for allegedly lying, Simpson said, “Are you kidding me?”
Assistant Professor Tim Riley, an author and critic for NPR, and Associate Professor Jerry Lanson, a former editor of the San Jose Mercury News, said Williams should at least be suspended until an internal investigation is completed by NBC.
“This looks like a classic case of narcissism and exaggerating the story you’re involved in to become a star,” Riley said.
“I’ll definitely be using this story in my class to teach the students how not to behave as journalists.”
“When journalists lack trust, they lack everything,” Lanson said.
CNN has produced a damning timeline recounting how Williams’ story about the alleged helicopter incident has changed over the years. Williams is now coming under more scrutiny for possible fabrications in his reporting of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“What I can’t get my head around is why,” Simpson said. “Why in the world would he do that?”
“After he’s reached the top—the pinnacle of TV journalism success—how could he squander that?” Simpson said.
“The more I read about the story, the worse it gets for Williams,” said Professor Emmanuel Paraschos. “I don’t understand how he can make a recollection error like that, and repeat it in the view of reports by soldiers who were there.”
“Why should the public trust NBC if its anchor isn’t held to the same standards of truth of the very people on whom he and the network are reporting?” Lanson said.
Simpson said that the public’s distrust of the media has never been higher—and Williams’ alleged “misremembering” of the helicopter incident casts a dark cloud over credible journalists.
“We’re in such a terrible time when the public does not trust the media,” Simpson said. “I’ve never seen it worse.
“What we try to instill in the public is their trust,” Simpson continued. “If we are embellishing stories, you’ve lost the public’s trust. He is not worthy to wear the crown of NBC.”