NBC opens two investigations of Brian Williams
NBC News anchor Brian Williams may not be out of a job at the network – yet. But he's certainly being handed his hat and shown to the door.
The New York Daily News is reporting that two separate investigations of Williams's on-camera claims are being opened by NBC News. The first is a "secret" task force charged with looking into numerous statements made by Williams over the years. The other probe is headed by the head of the network's crack investigative unit and will concentrate on the anchor's Iraq War claims of being in a helicopter when it was shot down in 2003.
Richard Esposito has been assigned to investigate the embattled “NBC Nightly News” anchor for lying about dodging danger while reporting in Iraq, sources told the Daily News on Friday.
Also, Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney-ABC Television Group, has put together a “secret task force” to comb through years of footage to see if Williams has told any other tall tales, the sources said. ABC officials strongly denied the task force’s existence.
The scandal has left the reporters and producers who work with Williams “shocked, furious and sad.” And they fear that the reputation of an anchor many considered “the most trusted name in news” has been wrecked, the sources said.
“Williams has no friends at the network,” one source said. “He has no one defending him. There's so much internal anger at NBC over what he has done and how it all went done.”
Williams made no mention of the swirling controversy in his Friday newscast and sources said he continues to man the chair because NBC has not groomed anyone to succeed him.
Lester Holt is considered “more of a cable guy,” they said. And the other option would be replacing him on an interim basis with “Today” show hosts Matt Lauer or Savannah Guthrie.
n a statement released Friday after The News broke the story about the investigation, NBC News honcho Deborah Turness said Williams has apologized again to staffers and “specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.”
While Turness appears to be standing behind the $10 million-a-year star, media watchers said it could be anchor away if the fibbing fallout continues to tarnish the company brand.
“This could be a career-killer for him,” said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, which covers the news media and talk radio. “Here’s another highly exalted public figure being brought down and exposed as human.”
The latests "Williamism" to be questioned involves his heroic tale of pulling puppies from a house fire:
Or maybe it was two puppies.
The truth-challenged NBC anchor told dueling versions of his supposed heroics as a teenage volunteer firefighter with the Old Village Fire Company in Middletown, NJ.
In October 2011, Williams waxed rhapsodic about how his dad took him to fires.
“I remember one such house fire . . . conducting a search on my hands and knees, when I felt something warm, squishy and furry on the floor of a closet,” Williams said.
“I instinctively tucked it in my coat. When I got outside, I saw two small eyes staring up at me, and I returned the 3-week-old and very scared puppy to its grateful owners,” he said.
But in July 2005, he told a different story, insisting he had saved not one but two pups from certain death.
What we have here is a serial fabricator. If you met this guy at a bar and listened to his tall tales, you'd just roll your eyes and order another shot.
But Brian Williams has been one of the most trusted MSM reporters for nearly two decades. No one thought twice of his news accounts – no matter how fantastical they seemed – because he always seemed to be there in the thick of the news, reporting what we assumed were the facts. As with news anchors and reporters before him, when tragedy strikes and Americans gather around their TV sets, the reporters take on a persona in our minds that engenders abiding faith in what they are telling us. It seems impossible that they could lie to us about something as important as being shot down or conditions in a storm-ravaged city.
While there are those of us who are skeptical of most everything that is reported in the news media, for millions of people, the voice of Brian Williams was the voice of truth and authority. He's lost that now, and it's only a matter of time before NBC reads the tea leaves and cans him.