Brian Williams has quickly plummeted to a low point in his career.
Williams, who anchored “NBC Nightly News” until he got suspended for six months last week, went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot. Some NBC insiders have speculated that Williams won’t be able to come back from the scandal that has engulfed him since he admitted to embellishing a story from his coverage of the Iraq invasion in 2003.
Williams has recounted the story several times over the past 12 years and has exaggerated his role in the incident over time. He has previously claimed that he was traveling in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, but later admitted after a veteran came forward to question his story that he was actually riding in another helicopter that was about 30 minutes behind the one that got hit.
After Williams made that admission, NBC launched an internal investigation and other possible exaggerations have surfaced. Here’s what else Williams is suspected of stretching the truth about:
Flying into Iraq with SEAL Team 6 YouTube / NBC NewsBrian Williams
Williams has claimed on television multiple times that he flew into Baghdad with the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, which was responsible for carrying out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, about three days after the US invaded Iraq, according to The Huffington Post. He has also claimed to have received a Navy SEAL’s knife and a piece of the helicopter from the raid as gifts.
As far as The Huffington Post could tell, Williams only started telling these stories in 2011, the year bin Laden was killed. Williams reported from the Baghdad airport on April 9, 2003, more than three days after the invasion of Iraq, but he didn’t mention going anywhere with SEAL Team 6, possibly because he was told not to discuss their activities.
Sources who talked to HuffPost said these stories seem implausible. United States Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw told HuffPost that they “do not embed journalists with this or any other unit that conducts counter-terrorism missions.”
NBC has not confirmed whether Williams’ stories about SEAL Team 6 are accurate.
Being in Berlin the day the wall fell RFE/RL
Williams said in 2008 that he “was at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall came down,” but that is likely an exaggeration, as CNN reports.
Although Williams was in Berlin in 1989 to report on the wall coming down for WCBS-TV in New York, Tom Brokaw was the only American anchorman to report live from the scene the night the wall actually fell on Nov. 9, CNN notes.
Williams has said publicly that he didn’t arrive at the Berlin Wall until 12 hours after Brokaw, but it seems that in some retellings of the story, he has misspoken about when he actually arrived on the scene.
Meeting the Pope
REUTERS/Dylan MartinezA gust of wind blows Pope John Paul II’s cassock as he rests his head in his hands during the weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square September 25, 2002.
Williams claims that he met Pope John Paul II when the Pope spoke at Catholic University’s Washington, D.C. campus in 1979, according to CNN. While delivering the commencement address at Catholic University in 2004, Williams recalled the moment he “shook hands with the Holy Father” during his visit to campus.
Soon after the Pope died in 2005, however, Williams provided a more elaborate account of this meeting while on air:
“I was a student at Catholic University, and over the course of two hours, chatted up a Secret Service agent who told me that the pope would be coming our way… I positioned myself and held out my hand and said, ‘Welcome to Catholic University, Holy Father.’ And he embraced my hand with both of his, made the sign of the cross, and said a blessing to me.”
When recounting the incident to Esquire later that same year, he never mentioned the presence of a secret service agent.