Williams's tall stories about his Katrina adventures now totally debunked
Soon to be former NBC News anchor Brian Williams gave an apologetic interview to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes where he blames being scared for "misremembering" the fact that his helicopter was not hit by an RPG. No matter. Williams has even bigger problems.
It seems that Mr. Williams wildly exaggerated the dangers he faced while covering Hurricane Katrina. It isn't just that his stories sound unbelievable. Almost all of the incidents he has related in the past have now been debunked by eyewitnesses.
Here is part of the heroic account Williams gave to author Douglas Brinkley for his book on the hurricane:
The one he told about witnessing a suicide at the Superdome. Or the one he told about watching a body float past the Ritz-Carlton, perched at the edge of an otherwise dry French Quarter. Or the one about the dysentery he said he got. And, finally, the story he told about the Ritz-Carlton gangs. Three separate individuals told reporters no gangs infiltrated the Ritz-Carlton.
The Williams story starts with profound sickness. According to an interview he gave Douglas Brinkley, who authored "The Great Deluge" (2007), the anchor got sick on a Tuesday. During an appearance on the "Today" show, he was standing next to some floodwater when he looked down at the bottle of distilled water in his hand. He found a "trickle of brown on the plastic bottle," the book said. "A few drops of the sewage water had accidentally gotten into his mouth."
The newsman made it back to the Ritz. Sickness was coming on hot. He was "fading in and out," he said. "Somebody left me on the stairway of the Ritz-Carlton in the dark on a mattress." Williams said he was delirious with fever and unable to eat.
But dangers beyond dysentery stalked the hotel. That same day, Brinkley wrote, "armed gangs had broken into the 527-room hotel, brandishing guns and terrorizing guests." He said he lay "eight or ten steps from the exit door. They were going to lock in or down the Ritz, shut it to keep the gangs out. Nobody was allowed out. No exceptions."
Somebody tried to push an IV on him, which Brinkley said he was "desperately in need of" but nobly declined. "There were so many ill people in line who needed it more than me," he said. "My conscience wouldn't have felt right if I had tried to pull rank. But I was in pure hell. I had no medicine, nothing."
He eventually made a break for it, "wading" out into what is described as "two feet of floodwater, barely able to stand."
Here's a picture of the "two feet of floodwater" in front of the hotel.
As for the violence and the "gangs" that infiltrated the hotel, the former general manager of the Ritz Carlton where Williams was staying, Myra DeGersdorff, disputes that claim:
DeGersdorff, now a resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., was confused. She said there was more than enough medicine and doctors in the MASH unit.
“Maybe he misremembered,” she told The Post of Williams’ claims. “I’m not going to judge him, because it was such an unpleasant week and there were times to be concerned. … And when there is that kind of concern you can misremember. And maybe he was out there, and it wasn’t impossible he could have encountered a body, but I don’t think it was in the French Quarter. The French Quarter only got inches of” flooding.
“There absolutely was looting in the French Quarter,” DeGersdorff recalled. “But I wouldn’t say they were gangs. … They were primarily individual looters or two or three buddies attempting to break into camera stores; it was unpleasant.” She said “on more than one occasion,” the looters tried to get inside. At one point, they did “breach a door,” but were “immediately” chased out. There were “maybe one or two of them,” she said.
This contrasts with Williams’s recollection, as recounted to historian Douglas Brinkley for his 2007 book, “The Great Deluge.” According to Brinkley, Williams told him that “armed gangs had broken into the 527-room hotel, brandishing guns and terrorizing guests. Williams, in fact, had seen his first corpse floating down Canal Street from his eighth-floor window earlier that day. Then fever consumed him.”
At some point — it’s unclear when — Williams said he camped out in a stairwell on a mattress. That surprised DeGersdorff. “I can tell you that at no time did any of my people report any sightings of any bodies,” she said. “I witnessed no bodies floating. … He may have simply misremembered. But I can tell you no one broke out in the hotel with dysentery. I did have mattresses in the stairwells, sure. Did he walk into a stairwell and lay down? He could have, but Ritz-Carlton doesn’t invite its guests to sleep in the stairwell, so we certainly didn’t give him access.”
The dysentery, the gangs, the dead body, the violence - all of those fantasies by Williams have now been royally debunked.
Williams' Katrina lies may be an even more important than his Iraq War prevarications. His dramatic coverage of the hurricane propelled him up the ladder at NBC and eventually, into the anchor chair.
A trustworthiness metric used by the industry may be the nail in the coffin that seals Williams' fate:
If Brian Williams’s future as the anchor of “NBC Nightly News” rests on his trustworthiness and ratings, new research delivered some sobering news on Monday.
Before Mr. Williams apologized for exaggerating an account of a forced helicopter landing during the Iraq war, he ranked as the 23rd-most-trusted person in the country — on par with Denzel Washington, Warren E. Buffett and Robin Roberts. On Monday, he ranked as No. 835.
That puts him on the same level as the actor Gene Hackman, the basketball player Russell Westbrook and Willie Robertson, who stars in A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” reality series, according to the Marketing Arm, a research firm whose celebrity index is closely watched by advertisers and media and marketing executives.
Simply put, no one is going to let someone ranked so low in trustworthiness on a network news broadcast.
Williams is a dead man walking - even if he doesn't know it.