Let’s look at this in a logical and common sense manner, and eliminate the emotional tirades. Brian Williams misspoke about his experience in 2003; the firestorm from the mistaken statement is a ploy by lesser media to discredit the only truly respected newsman on broadcast television today.
Although FOX News anchors continually tell falsehoods or exaggerate their tales, they do not receive the extremes directed at Mr. Williams. Maybe it’s because they have no credibility as a cable news network, but there appears to be a form of hypocrisy here.
It all started in Iraq when a group of Chinook helicopters was delivering supplies to our troops who were beginning their long campaign. His first report from Iraq stated that the lead helicopter had been hit by a rocket propelled grenade; all four landed immediately and unloaded their cargo. The firestorm began when he made an incorrect statement over a week ago on his nightly news show. In an attempt to honor the men and women who took charge of his safety in Iraq, he said that he was in the helicopter that was attacked. Calls flooded in from former Iraq veterans. Wednesday he set the record straight, and said that he had been in a helicopter behind the damaged aircraft. The incident happened 12 years ago.
The rage began almost immediately. Unfortunately for Mr. Williams, he is a celebrity, as are all those reporting the news on television today. His biggest sin is that he is the best at his job.
Then the falsehoods began. There were several reports that legendary newsman Tom Brokaw called for his resignation. The truth was that he said the results should be between Brian Williams and the Network. He has also received support from Dan Rather.
Joe Klein is the political columnist for Time magazine. He is the author of five books, including the well-known ‘Primary Colors.’ He dismisses the majority of Brian Williams’ critics. He tells a story about himself which is demonstrative of what a field reporter may experience; an event he says few of Williams’ detractors have ever experienced.
His first assignment was in 1978 for Rolling Stone Magazine. He was sent to cover Israel’s first military action against Lebanon. He received credentials from the PLO, and headed for the front lines.
When he and his escorts reached the first checkpoint, they were stopped by men who appeared to be no more than teenagers. They wanted to check their papers. They were carrying Kalashnikovs. One of the young men yelled something at Klein and pushed the rifle into his chest. He was told that the man demanded his papers. When he looked at Klein’s credentials, he said; ‘like papa was a rolling stone?’
Klein says that that is the way he remembered it. But he also remembers being scared to death. Did the boy actually push the rifle against his chest, or did he simply point it at him. And he would love to believe that the two young men broke into song. He says that memories, especially under extreme duress are not infallible. He may have exaggerated the facts over the years.
Klein says he will remain a fan of Brian Williams, and will expect his next field assignment to be reported impeccably.
Commentary by James Turnage