We perish because we know not… #TLENews
The flood waters are rising on Brian Williams’ career.
The embattled NBC Nightly News anchor’s gripping coverage of Hurricane Katrina is now under review after his credibility took a major hit when Iraq War veterans called him a liar for claiming he survived an RPG attack on his helicopter during the 2003 invasion.
Now bloggers are picking apart Williams’ award-winning reporting from New Orleans in 2005, calling into question some of the most compelling narratives he told of one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
“When you look out of your hotel room window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh in Indonesia and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country,” Williams said of his Katrina experience in a 2006 interview with Michael Eisner.
“I beat that storm. I was there before it arrived. I rode it out with people who later died in the Superdome.”
But that particular account and others he provided on the epic storm are now being scrutinized because several news outlets reporting from the French Quarter have noted that the neighborhood, the tourist and cultural heart of New Orleans, was spared the worst and saw little flooding, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
So the question is: Did the 55-year-old Williams actually see a body float by from the window of his five-star hotel room in the Quarter, or is this another case of the journalist being swamped by inaccurate or embellished statements?
The veteran TV newsman’s most vivid memory of his time in Iraq — of riding in a helicopter that was attacked from the ground by a rocket-propelled grenade — has already been shot down. He made a very public apology during his self-titled newscast Wednesday evening.
But Williams’ mea culpa has cast a different light on everything he has reported during his long career.
Take, for example, his interview with journalism icon Tom Brokaw, whose anchor’s chair Williams inherited in December 2004. The two talked Katrina at the Columbia School of Journalism in June and Williams revealed that he suffered a crippling bout of dysentery while reporting from New Orleans.
“I accidentally ingested some of the flood water. I became very sick with dysentery,” Williams said. “Our hotel was overrun with gangs. I was rescued in the stairwell of a five-star hotel in New Orleans by a young police officer. We are friends to this day. I look back at total agony. We were experiencing the least of it.”
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals told The Advocate that dysentery is not one of the reportable diseases the agency tracks, but it was possible to contract it from contaminated storm-water.
“I saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises and such, but I don’t recall a single, solitary case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward,” Brobson Lutz, a former New Orleans city health director, told The Advocate.
Williams and the NBC Nightly News team won Emmy, DuPont and Peabody awards for their Katrina coverage.
The New York Daily News