Media critics are not entirely satisfied with NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ apology for mistakes he made in describing his experience aboard a helicopter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Williams has made multiple apologies for his most recent version of the story, in which he said the helicopter he was on was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. But the NBC anchors’ accounting of what took place has varied over the past decade, and numerous individuals have contested his version of events.
Crew members who were present during the attack claim that the helicopter on which Williams rode was nowhere near the attack. Yet the pilot of the aircraft on which the newsman flew claims that the helicopter did take small arms fire, but was not hit in the RPG attack.
CNN’s Brian Stelter criticized Williams’ response on Thursday morning and expressed the need for additional answers.
“This just does not pass the smell test. You may want to believe this is an innocent mistake, but how could someone, how could anyone conflate being on a helicopter that did not take fire and being on a helicopter that did take fire?” Stelter asked on CNN’s “New Day.” “I don’t think this apology went far enough because he’s not explaining the rest of what’s happened.”
Stelter added that the controversy is a “serious blow” to Williams’ credibility as a journalist.
Later on Thursday morning, after Stelter interviewed the pilot of the helicopter on which Williams flew, Stelter said that employees at NBC were not satisfied with Williams’ apology.
“This is troubling for Brian Williams. There was that apology last night. I don’t think anyone I’ve talked to at NBC was satisfied with it. They don’t feel it went far enough. People at the network are openly wondering if there’s going to be some disciplinary action to be taken against him,” Stelter said. “I’ve been told there are no plans. But this is a story growing as we went along.”
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called on NBC news to investigate Williams and the events that took place in 2003.
“The fact that personnel aside from Williams knew that his statements on these events were erroneous should prompt an internal probe as to how these falsehoods circulated so freely,” he wrote.
Wemple also questioned why members of the NBC crew who flew with Williams in 2003 have not come forward about his embellishments.
“Why did it take pushback from ‘some brave men and women in the air crews,’ however? Do these folks have to fight our wars and fact-check NBC News?” he asked. “Where were Williams’s crew members, who surely knew that Williams had either ‘conflated’ his Chinook with another Chinook — his explanation — or was using the passage of time to embellish his own exploits — another explanation. And what of other NBC News employees who worked on the story?”