Reporters and commentators from across the spectrum raised their eyebrows at Brian Williams’s claim he simply “made a mistake” when he said he was on a helicopter shot down during the Iraq War, with most observers believing the NBC Nightly News anchor deliberately lied about the incident.
The most vociferous criticism came from David Zurawik, media reporter at The Baltimore Sun. “If credibility means anything to NBC News, Brian Williams will no longer be managing editor and anchor of the evening newscast by the end of the day Friday,” he wrote on Thursday, accusing the anchor of lying and then refusing to admit it.
Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple called the Williams snafu “an NBC News-wide scandal . . . Why did it take pushback from ’some brave men and women in the air crews?’ Do these folks have to fight our wars and fact-check NBC News?”
Conservative media critic Brent Bozell tweeted that Williams lie disqualified him from continuing on as America’s “most trusted” news anchor:
Brian Williams has to go. NBC's credibility is completely shot.
— Brent Bozell (@BrentBozell) February 5, 2015
Liberal commentator Rosie O’Donnell agreed. “I think you would know if you were in a helicopter that was actually hit by a missile,” she said on ABC’s The View Thursday. “I think he fabricated that story. And the apology seemed oddly circuitous.”
Television analyst Andrew Tyndall told The Daily Beast that while Williams’s lie is “a trivial one . . . the motive for the lie is really damning. Telling fibs to make yourself seem braver than you are? Why would you do that?”
In fact, the only person willing to stick their neck out for Williams seems to be Dan Rather — the former CBS anchor who resigned in disgrace after helping fabricate a story critical of President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas National Guard.
“I don’t know the particulars about that day in Iraq,” he told Politico on Thursday. “I do know Brian. He’s a longtime friend and we have been in a number of war zones and on the same battlefields, competing but together. Brian is an honest, decent man.”