Brian Williams: It's all about him

Brian Williams’s on-site reporting displays a pattern of personal embellishments.

With the revelation of his false claim of combat experience in Iraq, Williams transitions from the dean of Big Media’s news anchors to the clock that struck thirteen – calling into question the veracity of his previous eyewitness accounts of major events.

One consistent characteristic of Williams’s reporting is emerging: he tends to exaggerate his personal reactions and experiences to make himself a pivotal part of the story. 

His reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was recently examined by the New Orleans Advocate, as summarized in the American Thinker.

The New Orleans Advocate article quoted Williams:

Williams has described his experiences during Katrina as personally transformative, and he has returned to the city and the topic numerous times since.

‘I saw fear, I saw death, I saw depravity, I saw firearms being brandished, I saw looting,’ he told the Los Angeles Times a year after Katrina made landfall.

He also recalled the danger of the moment in a 2007 interview on C-SPAN.

‘We had to have men with guns behind me one night because I was the only source of light downtown, was the lights that were illuminating the broadcast,’ Williams said. ‘We were told not to drink our bottled water in front of people because we could get killed for it.’

His 2010 reporting on the earthquake in Haiti likewise had him putting himself near the center of the story.

In this video from NBC Nightly News, Williams reported from the tarmac at the Port-au-Prince Airport.  His description of the tragedy is personal – but did he personally witness it?  Or vicariously experience it through the eyewitness accounts of others?

In addition to that special segment on NBC Nightly News – hosted that day by Lester Holt – Williams was interviewed in March 2010 by the Huffington Post.

Brian Williams was the first network news anchor on the ground in Haiti, reporting live from Port-Au-Prince in an hourlong {sic} ‘Nightly News’ Wednesday. The Huffington Post spoke to Williams over a shaky satellite phone connection from the airport in Haiti Thursday morning.

‘We arrived here at the tarmac and put our equipment boxes down and, as is so often the case, it ended up being home,’ Williams said. He said that he bunked with Al Roker and slept in a tent on the cement tarmac Wednesday night, while some of their NBC colleagues -- including Ann Curry -- slept in baggage containers parked at the airport. The US Army was setting up shop nearby Thursday morning.

‘This is just a colossal calamity,’ he said. ‘I've just been told that on the other side of the wall from where I am dead bodies are arriving because people just don't know what to do with them.’

Williams compared the situation on the ground to what he witnessed covering the tsunami in 2004.

‘It's very reminiscent of what we saw in Banda Aceh,’ Williams said. ‘There were 35,000 dead in our time there. There's no way to express it, no way to explain it, it just becomes other-worldly.’

From his reporter's perspective, Williams compared the Haiti story to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘We're all reporters,’ he said. ‘It's like Iraq and it's like Afghanistan. Why have our jobs if we're not covering these stories? These stories become the benchmarks of our time. I just realized as I'm standing here that my foot is on an equipment case and the baggage case said KAM Air. That means this gear was last in Afghanistan with us. These become the signposts. These are the events of our time. If the job really was sitting in New York and looking into a camera, it wouldn't be worth it.’

He added that sleeping on the tarmac Wednesday night reminded him of his time in Baghdad.

‘Parts of this remind me of hooking up with the 3rd ID arriving in Baghdad airport the night after it fell and living on the ground there,’ he said. ‘It's familiar in that it is ominous and sad and beyond the scope of anything Americans have suffered.’

Williams’s description of Haiti, as detailed by the Huffington Post, is mostly about Williams’s recollections of “familiar” events from his past reporting.  It’s all about him.

In the Huffington Post interview, he compares sleeping on the tarmac at Port-au-Prince to sleeping at Baghdad Airport.  Then he makes the implied claim to being an eyewitness by describing both events as “ominous and sad and beyond the scope of anything Americans have suffered.”  How does that linkage work?  (And many Americans have slept on their luggage in an airport terminal when the only thing open was the restroom.)

It appears that Williams did all his on-site reporting from Haiti from the airport tarmac.  All of the photos accompanying the story show Williams there. 

In Haiti, he did a fly-in, and then referred to the devastation as though he were an eyewitness.

“If the job really was sitting in New York and looking into a camera, it wouldn't be worth it.”

“I've just been told that on the other side of the wall from where I am dead bodies are arriving because people just don't know what to do with them.”

So Brian was “there” – but he wasn’t really there. 

Brian Williams’s on-site reporting displays a pattern of personal embellishments.

With the revelation of his false claim of combat experience in Iraq, Williams transitions from the dean of Big Media’s news anchors to the clock that struck thirteen – calling into question the veracity of his previous eyewitness accounts of major events.

One consistent characteristic of Williams’s reporting is emerging: he tends to exaggerate his personal reactions and experiences to make himself a pivotal part of the story. 

His reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was recently examined by the New Orleans Advocate, as summarized in the American Thinker.

The New Orleans Advocate article quoted Williams:

Williams has described his experiences during Katrina as personally transformative, and he has returned to the city and the topic numerous times since.

‘I saw fear, I saw death, I saw depravity, I saw firearms being brandished, I saw looting,’ he told the Los Angeles Times a year after Katrina made landfall.

He also recalled the danger of the moment in a 2007 interview on C-SPAN.

‘We had to have men with guns behind me one night because I was the only source of light downtown, was the lights that were illuminating the broadcast,’ Williams said. ‘We were told not to drink our bottled water in front of people because we could get killed for it.’

His 2010 reporting on the earthquake in Haiti likewise had him putting himself near the center of the story.

In this video from NBC Nightly News, Williams reported from the tarmac at the Port-au-Prince Airport.  His description of the tragedy is personal – but did he personally witness it?  Or vicariously experience it through the eyewitness accounts of others?

In addition to that special segment on NBC Nightly News – hosted that day by Lester Holt – Williams was interviewed in March 2010 by the Huffington Post.

Brian Williams was the first network news anchor on the ground in Haiti, reporting live from Port-Au-Prince in an hourlong {sic} ‘Nightly News’ Wednesday. The Huffington Post spoke to Williams over a shaky satellite phone connection from the airport in Haiti Thursday morning.

‘We arrived here at the tarmac and put our equipment boxes down and, as is so often the case, it ended up being home,’ Williams said. He said that he bunked with Al Roker and slept in a tent on the cement tarmac Wednesday night, while some of their NBC colleagues -- including Ann Curry -- slept in baggage containers parked at the airport. The US Army was setting up shop nearby Thursday morning.

‘This is just a colossal calamity,’ he said. ‘I've just been told that on the other side of the wall from where I am dead bodies are arriving because people just don't know what to do with them.’

Williams compared the situation on the ground to what he witnessed covering the tsunami in 2004.

‘It's very reminiscent of what we saw in Banda Aceh,’ Williams said. ‘There were 35,000 dead in our time there. There's no way to express it, no way to explain it, it just becomes other-worldly.’

From his reporter's perspective, Williams compared the Haiti story to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘We're all reporters,’ he said. ‘It's like Iraq and it's like Afghanistan. Why have our jobs if we're not covering these stories? These stories become the benchmarks of our time. I just realized as I'm standing here that my foot is on an equipment case and the baggage case said KAM Air. That means this gear was last in Afghanistan with us. These become the signposts. These are the events of our time. If the job really was sitting in New York and looking into a camera, it wouldn't be worth it.’

He added that sleeping on the tarmac Wednesday night reminded him of his time in Baghdad.

‘Parts of this remind me of hooking up with the 3rd ID arriving in Baghdad airport the night after it fell and living on the ground there,’ he said. ‘It's familiar in that it is ominous and sad and beyond the scope of anything Americans have suffered.’

Williams’s description of Haiti, as detailed by the Huffington Post, is mostly about Williams’s recollections of “familiar” events from his past reporting.  It’s all about him.

In the Huffington Post interview, he compares sleeping on the tarmac at Port-au-Prince to sleeping at Baghdad Airport.  Then he makes the implied claim to being an eyewitness by describing both events as “ominous and sad and beyond the scope of anything Americans have suffered.”  How does that linkage work?  (And many Americans have slept on their luggage in an airport terminal when the only thing open was the restroom.)

It appears that Williams did all his on-site reporting from Haiti from the airport tarmac.  All of the photos accompanying the story show Williams there. 

In Haiti, he did a fly-in, and then referred to the devastation as though he were an eyewitness.

“If the job really was sitting in New York and looking into a camera, it wouldn't be worth it.”

“I've just been told that on the other side of the wall from where I am dead bodies are arriving because people just don't know what to do with them.”

So Brian was “there” – but he wasn’t really there.