Brian Williams: Phony?

Another video has surfaced of Brian Williams claiming to have been involved in attacks, this time in two different wars. News broke last week that Williams had fabricated stories of his involvement, and he has since apologized and announced he was taking a temporary leave from “Nightly News.”

Williams said he was riding in a helicopter in 2003 in Iraq that was hit with enemy fire and was forced to land. He backtracked those comments and said he was actually riding in the helicopter behind the one that got hit (how do you get that mixed up??). However, soldiers on the mission said Williams was nowhere near the helicopter that was shot down, and was traveling in a different formation altogether.

The new video is from an interview Williams did with a student at Fairfield University in 2007. Here is the new quote in question:

I’ve been very lucky to have survived a few things that I’ve been involved in. At the reception a few minutes ago, I was remembering something I tend to forget: the war with Hezbollah in Israel a few years back where there were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in. A few years before that, you go back to Iraq, and I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us and had hit the chopper in front of ours. And I’m so fortunate to be sitting here.

Apparently, Williams’ reporting during Hurricane Katrina has come under scrutiny as well. So what are the effects of this? On Williams himself, NBC, viewers, and journalism as a whole?

In my opinion, Brian Williams’ credibility and integrity as a journalist has been tarnished forever (NBC takes a hit, too). If it’s revealed that he did in fact lie about being hit by enemy fire in 2003 or about looking down the tube of an RPG or anything else, he should be fired by NBC.

I understand that Brian Williams is a prominent figure in the journalism industry, and he’s done some excellent work over the years. But blatantly lying about involvement in war is simply unacceptable and should not be tolerated, no matter who the accuser is. In fact, it’s even disrespectful to the soldiers who are in battle and actually laying their lives on the line every single day.

I’m having some difficulty understanding what could possibly could have been his impetus behind making these comments. Does having been in Iraq make him a better journalist? You’re not a hero, dude. You’re a news anchor. You aren’t sacrificing anything or fighting anyone, and you’re there under your own free will. No one’s forcing you to put yourself in the line of fire, because that’s not your job.

Your job is to accurately and honestly report the news, which you failed to do. The SPJ Code of Ethics clearly states – multiple times, actually – that accuracy is a premium within the industry and should be valued as such.

“An ethical journalist acts with integrity.” Brian Williams did not, and he should be fired for it. Just as Professor Robinson stated in class, if it were a reporter for a smaller newspaper or anyone with less notoriety than Williams, he would lose his job without question. Exception should not be made in this case. Hopefully NBC makes the right call. Better yet, Williams should show true integrity and accountability by making the decision to resign himself.

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