In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, NBC News anchor Brian Williams came out with a surprising tale: he had embedded with the special forces team that carried out the raid several years before bin Laden’s death.
But with his admission last week that a story he repeatedly told about the Iraq War had been bogus, his accounts of having spent time with SEAL Team 6 are now being called into question.
During three separate appearances on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” in recent years, the NBC News anchor claimed that in 2003 he flew on a helicopter with SEAL Team 6, which later carried out the mission to kill bin Laden.
However, a former SEAL told the Huffington Post in an article published on Thursday that Williams stories about flying with the team and his relationship with its members are highly unlikely.
“My initial reaction is it sounds completely preposterous. There’s a healthy dislike towards embedded journalists within the SEAL community,” Brandon Webb, a former SEAL sniper, told the Huffington Post. “I can’t even remember an embed with a SEAL unit. And especially at SEAL Team Six? Those guys don’t take journalists with them on missions.”
Special Operations Command spokesman James Krohne told the Huffington Post that journalists do sometimes embed with SEAL teams, but she could not confirm whether Williams had done so.
In a 2011 appearance on “Letterman” shortly after Bin Laden was killed, Williams said that he had flown with the team that carried out the mission.
“It happens to be a team I flew into Baghdad with, on the condition that I would never speak of what I saw on the aircraft, the aircraft we were on, what we they carrying, or who they were after,” he said.
And the next night, after reports circulated that members of SEAL Team 6 killed bin Laden, Williams said on “NBC Nightly News” that he flew with that team at the beginning of the Iraq War.
During a 2012 “Letterman” appearance, Williams said that while flying with SEAL Team 6, he “was told not to make any eye contact with them or initiate any conversation.” But he then said that he did end up talking to a commando and admired his knife.
“Darned if that knife didn’t show up at my office a couple weeks later,” Williams said.
And during a 2013 appearance on “Letterman,” Williams added that after bin Laden was killed, someone on the SEAL team sent him “a piece of the fuselage of the blown-up Black Hawk in that courtyard.”
As the Huffington Post noted, pieces of that helicopter are incredibly valuable, and the government has had to investigate other individuals who have spoken about the bin Laden raid.
“Shame on him if he was given a piece of helicopter,” Webb told the Huffington Post. “By telling the world, he’s basically caused a reason for the inspector general to investigate that command.”