A Louisiana newspaper on Friday raised questions about tales that NBC News anchor Brian Williams has told publicly about his reporting from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
The questions come after Williams admitted earlier this week that he was never aboard a helicopter that took rocket fire in Iraq back in 2003, a story he has repeatedly told in public.
The Advocate newspaper published a story on Friday that explored two of Williams’ accounts from his reporting on the 2005 disaster and its aftermath. Several conservative news websites first cast doubt on those stories earlier this week.
Williams said in a 2006 interview that he had watched the body of a man float by him in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter.
“When you look out of your hotel window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country,” Williams said.
But as the Advocate pointed out, the French Quarter is situated in an elevated part of the city. Various media reports since 2005 have noted that the tourist-heavy neighborhood was spared from the kind of devastating flooding that the Lower Ninth Ward suffered.
Then in a 2014 interview with his predecessor Tom Brokaw, Williams said he inadvertently drank some floodwater and got terribly sick.
“My week, two weeks there was not helped by the fact that I accidentally ingested some of the floodwater,” he told Brokaw. “I became very sick with dysentery, our hotel was overrun with gangs, I was rescued in the stairwell of a five-star hotel in New Orleans by a young police officer. We are friends to this day. And it just was — I look back at total agony.”
Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former city health director who provided emergency health services in the French Quarter during the storm, told the Advocate that the neighborhood was “never wet.” As for Williams’ story of coming down with dysentery, he said he’d never heard of anything like that.
“I saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises and such, but I don’t recall a single, solitary case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward,” Lutz told the Advocate.
A spokesperson for NBC didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment on Williams’ statements.
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