More exaggerations and embellishments have been found in Brian Williams‘ previous reporting by NBC News’ internal review.
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Friday and Saturday that NBC brass has found other questionable comments by Williams regarding his reporting in 2006 from the Israel/Hezbollah conflict; descriptions made about his reporting from Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring protests in 2011; the details surrounding him receiving a fragment of the helicopter that crashed during the mission that killed Osama bin Laden; as well as other undisclosed incidents.
The Post reported NBC executives including NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, new NBC News chairman Andrew Lack and NBC News president Deborah Turness met in a conference room Thursday to discuss the current findings in Williams’ investigation. These three, led by Burke, will ultimately decide if the suspended Williams will return to NBC News.
The Times reported on other discrepancies in Williams’ reporting Friday, particularly surrounding his coverage from Tahrir Square in 2011.
It’s not known which parts of Williams’ Tahrir Square reporting is being looked at, but discrepancies between his account and reality have become apparent. In February, 2011, Williams appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, describing clashes between anti-Egyptian government protestors and a pro-government group on horses and camels.
Williams said he “actually made eye contact with the man on the lead horse.” After Stewart said pro-government forces used whips against protestors, Williams recounted witnessing just that, adding, “he went around the corner after I saw him, they pulled out whips and started beating human beings on the way.”
The problem is NBC News’ reports from that day didn’t show Williams in Tahrir Square. Later reports had Williams reporting from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square as opposed to being in the middle of the square himself. That description matches footage that was broadcast along with statements Williams made himself in an interview with the New York Times in 2014.
“But when [the NBC News correspondent] Richard Engel and I were hanging off a balcony in Tahrir Square, with weapons firing below us, we were just south of 12 million people watching,” Williams said .
Another apparent tall tale comes from Williams’ interview with a Fairfield University student TV show in 2007 regarding his reporting from the Israel/Hezbollah conflict in 2006. Then, he said he saw rockets passing “just beneath” the Israel helicopter he was traveling in.
But in his own blog post, Williams depicted a much less dramatic scene: “Over the constant air traffic control radio traffic in Hebrew, we learn there is activity on the ground right below us.”
“From a distance of six miles, I witnessed a rocket launch. A rising trail of smoke, then a second rocket launch, an orange flash and more smoke — as a rocket heads off toward Israel.”
Earlier this week, revelations unfolded making clear NBC News’ Washington D.C. bureau journalists didn’t support Williams’ returning dating back to February. The Washington Post reported staffers held a contentious meeting with network president Turness regarding Williams’ exaggerations. Staffers felt their credibility was shot and they were embarrassed to work with sources and identify as NBC News journalists. They told Turness Williams shouldn’t be put back in the anchor chair.
The new discrepancies being found — on top of the original exaggeration where Williams said his Iraqi helicopter was shot down by RPG fire in 2003 — make it even harder to fathom NBC News brining Williams back to the anchor chair when his suspension is set to wrap in August.
Other reports say Williams has grown frustrated that NBC hasn’t given any indication on whether he will return, and that he wants the network to spell out if and when he will return.
In his absence, “Nightly News” has fallen behind “World News Tonight” with David Muir in total viewers, having its five-year ratings streak snapped.
NBC News declined to comment to TheWrap. Brian Williams‘ attorney, Robert Barnett, did not immediately respond to comment, either.