In a time where people can simply say whatever they want to say and rant about their “freedom of speech” when they are barred from doing so, it becomes more and more difficult for the masses to know what is the truth and what is a lie. In the case of Brian Williams, however, it gets more complicated than that.
Brian Williams, who has made a name for himself during his decade-long career as a news anchor for NBC Nightly News, is facing scrutiny and criticism over the “lie” he told the American public. On Jan. 30, he retold the story of his Chinook helicopter being hit by a Rocket-Propelled Grenade RPG and making an emergency landing during his coverage of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. According to military news source Stars and Stripes, however, crewmembers of the helicopter hit by the RPG remembered that Brian Williams and his journalist team arrived about an hour after they landed, in a different helicopter that was not hit by any projectiles or warheads at all.
Williams finally recanted the story on Feb. 4 and apologized for making “a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.” The next day, he voluntarily withdrew from the anchor desk on a temporary basis and by Feb. 10, Williams was suspended without pay for six months from the Nightly News for an “inexcusable” action. Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal called Williams’ suspension “severe and appropriate.”
Brian Williams’ reputation as the “voice of truth” gradually solidified as he made the steady climb to the Nightly News desk, and this event severely diminishes the trust placed in the news as a reliable source of the world’s events. As many other media have been placed into categories due to their liberal or conservative bias, Williams’ mishandling of his own personal experience will make it harder for the people to find someone that they can rely on to speak the objective truth. As a result, apathy and disregard for the nationwide development may also rise, which could lead to an eventual lack of progress simply because people do not care anymore.
As for Williams, it will be hard for him to regain the American people’s trust. As history has repeatedly shown, humans’ great accomplishments can be torn down and dissolved into oblivion by a small and seemingly trivial event. Although his journalistic accomplishments are many, Williams will mainly be remembered for “mistakenly” and “unconsciously” misleading the American people into believing a lie at the time when they have seen and heard too many lies from left and right.
While the media frenzy mocks him as delusional or dishonest, all he can do now is stand firm and make sure that if he does get back behind the news desk, he is ready to once again start from the bottom, speak the truth and eventually become as trustworthy as he once was.
Samuel Pattinasarane ’18 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in political science and Asian studies.