On February 4, 2015, NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams issued an on air ‘apology’ for his inaccuracies during the NBC Nightly News January 30th broadcast.
Specifically, Williams lied that he was on board the military Chinook helicopter during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) resulting in rear aircraft damage and forced emergency landing.
Army pilot Joe Summerlin, flight engineer Lance Reynolds, and other crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment who were traveling on the RPG-hit Chinook are angry that Williams is taking heroic credit and have set the record straight by exposing his inaccuracies. In reality, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was…
- not present, in peril, or on board the attacked Chinook
- no where near the time of attack
- no where near the vicinity of the attack
- with his NBC News team on a different Chinook and on a different mission that did not experience RPG attacks. Chinook helicopter pilots Christopher Simeone and Allan Kelly transporting Williams and his NBC News crew arrived approximately half hour to an hour later and reported that their aircraft did not come under fire.
- Pilots Simeone and Kelly were told to land their aircraft without knowing why. Williams and the other passengers were unaware of what happened until after his aircraft landed near the first three helicopters.
- According to pilot Summerlin, Williams immediately combed his hair upon exiting his helicopter and did not interview Summerlin or the crew.
Accurate Body Language and Statement Analysis
Attractive people like Brian Williams have a ‘halo’ effect and are often given the benefit of the doubt (even when given contradictory evidence) because other people are automatically drawn to them, want to like them, be with them, and believe them. When people are attractive and charming, others may be taken by their physical appearance and also may be fooled and taken for a ride if they ignore the attractive person’s body language, deceptive indicators, and statement analysis.
NBC Williams’ claim of ‘misremembering’ that he was on board the RPG-hit helicopter is simply not true. NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams read the following statements via teleprompter:
- “On this broadcast last week, in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others (lifts eyebrows) after a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War invasion, I made a mistake (increase blink rate reflect stress) in recalling the events (increase blink rate again) of 12 years ago.
- It did not take long (increase blink rate again) to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert.
- I want to apologize: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. (Williams was not present, he arrived 30 to 60 minutes afterwards)
- We all landed after the ground fire incident and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert. (using the pronoun ‘we’ misleads and makes Williams part of the military team that directly experienced the ground fire incident. Also, by using the word, ‘harrowing’ Williams continues to dramatize the danger and peril in the sandstorm.)
- This was a bungled attempt (increased blink rate and minimizes his behavior by not admitting to lying) by me (increased blink rate) to thank one special veteran, and by extension: our brave military men and women — Veterans everywhere (Williams’ eyebrows lift and his head shakes horizontally negating his verbal words of thanking the veterans) — those who have served while I did not. I hope they know (lowers chin…) they have my greatest respect (lifts chin)…
- And also now…my apology.” Slower voice rate and speed with softer volume.
For the majority of his talk, Williams did not slow down his voice rhythm and pacing to express his ‘apology’ in a sincere manner until the very end…when he verbally said the difficult words, “…my apology.” By rushing through his narrative in less than one minute he got through the ‘apology’ as quickly as possible. Despite his words, Williams lacked facial and voice indicators of true remorse or regret. As a result, he appeared detached in his delivery as if he was simply reading a typical news script via the teleprompter.
Throughout the entire segment, his forehead showed deep horizontal wrinkles and his right eyebrow was lifted asymmetrically higher than his left eyebrow. The deep forehead wrinkles indicate distress and the asymmetrical eyebrows give Williams a peculiar look. Genuine sadness is typically expressed when both inner eyebrows lift in an inverted V shape with vertical wrinkles in between, along with lowered mouth corners.
Rather than showing remorse or regret, Williams continues to portray himself in a positive manner by saying, “…in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others…” Yet, he does not specifically mention by name the retired veteran he professes to honor at a New York Rangers game, retired Command Sergeant Major Tim Terpak. Williams also does not mention Army pilot Joe Summerlin, flight engineer Lance Reynolds, and the crew members who were directly involved and safely landed their RPG-hit helicopter.
Williams claims that he, “…made a mistake (increase blink rate) in recalling the events (increase blink rate) of 12 years ago.” He attempts to minimize his lies as if he only made one mistake in one incident a long time ago. This was not a one time error. Williams has been telling increasingly exaggerated lies on several occasions since March 2003:
- On March 26, 2003 NBC Nightly News promoted the headline, “Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC’s Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire.”
- In his 2003 reporting of the incident Williams said a helicopter in front of his was hit by the RPG and forced down. Williams’ phrasing ‘in front of’ suggests that he was immediately behind or near by the Chinook that was hit.
- In a 2007 re-telling of the incident, Williams said, “… I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us, and it hit the chopper in front of us.”
- In a 2013 interview Williams also recounted the incident, stating that his helicopter was “hit and crippled by enemy fire.”
- March 4, 2013 ‘Here’s the Thing’ WNYC Radio Show Interview with Host Alec Baldwin: Talking about confidence and success, Williams said, “I guess I do say, to myself and others, ‘I got this.’ And I don’t know where that unbridled confidence came from. And I’ve done some ridiculously stupid things, under that banner, like being in a helicopter I had no business being in in Iraq with rounds coming into the airframe. But I, I also – ”
Baldwin: “Did you think you would die?”
Williams: “Briefly, sure …”
- March 26, 2013 | Late Night with David Letterman Guest Appearance: Williams, “Two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in…”
- Williams’ eye gaze looks away to his right and away from Letterman as he finishes this false sentence.
- If his helicopter suffered a real RPG hit, he would have maintained eye contact with Letterman as he gets to the most intense moment of being ‘hit.’
- In addition, a truthful person would exhibit more animated body language gestures and emotions of SURPRISE and FEAR. For example, in recounting a dangerous story, the head, body, torso, and arms would move abruptly or flinch with unexpected loud noise or impact.
- In addition, when people recall a vivid and dangerous event, they typically use active language of reliving the frightening event in the present moment such as, ‘…then all of a sudden, we heard this loud noise and felt the jolt and impact! We were hit!!”
- Jan. 30, 2015 | NBC Nightly News report: Williams said, “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq, when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our traveling NBC news team was rescued and kept alive by an Armored Mechanized Platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
All of these are false, because Williams arrived 30 minutes to an hour later, and, therefore, did not personally see or experience the attack.
Williams continued with, “It did not take long (increase blink rate) to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert.” Williams elevated himself from a civilian news reporter status to someone of heroic importance who was on board the helicopter that was hit. By doing this, he discounts and disrespects the military veterans who were present, directly involved, and who were the true heroes. as navigating from the “Jump Seat.” Summerlin was in the cockpit behind the two pilots who were flying the aircraft that was hit and reported Williams’ inaccuracies immediately to news sources. Summerlin stated that he did not get any replies. Summerlin and the other crew members were on official military assignments during the Iraq invasion, and not just secondary personnel “…who were also in that desert.”
Williams continues to mislead by saying, “I want to apologize: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. Williams was not present, and no where nearby because he arrived 30 to 60 minutes afterwards. By saying he was ‘…instead in a following aircraft’ he continues to falsely suggest that he was immediately behind the Chinook that was hit or was close enough to witness the event.
Williams includes himself in the heroic danger with the pronoun “We” when he said, “We all landed after the ground fire incident and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert. By using the pronoun ‘we’ Williams includes himself as part of the military team that directly experienced the ground fire incident. Also, by using the word, ‘harrowing’ Williams continues to dramatize the danger and peril in the sandstorm.
Despite multiple occasions of lying and bragging about his personal involvement, Williams continues to lie by saying this was a single incident, “This was a bungled attempt.
Even though Williams attempted to verbally, “…thank one special veteran, and by extension: our brave military men and women — Veterans everywhere…,” his body language negated his verbal words when he shook his head horizontally.
Williams lowered his chin when he said, “I hope they know (slight bow with lowered chin…) they have my greatest respect (lifts chin)...and now…my apology.” Although Williams slows his speech and volume as he approaches and says the words, “…my apology,” he does not issue a direct apology to veterans and to the viewing audience. He distances himself by tagging his ‘apology’ with the introductory clause, “I hope they know they have my greatest respect…”
Verbally, Williams continues to exaggerate his personal involvement and self-importance. And through his accurate body language, Williams reveals that he is neither credible nor sincere in his indirect apology. Since the last two words of his narrative are ‘my apology,’ Williams shows that apologizing has the lowest priority and is of the least importance to him. If apologizing were important to him, he would have LED with a DIRECT apology (i.e., “I want to apologize to the veterans involved and to everyone…”) in the beginning, rather than tag an indirect ‘my apology’ as the concluding two words, of his 54 second narrative.
In the aftermath of his self-imposed debacle, Williams has been suspended from NBC without pay for 6 months. His annual salary is reported to be $10 million, therefore, his suspension is costing him a whopping $5 million dollars. With his pattern of enhancing his fable over the past 12 years, and still not coming clean with a sincere apology after being exposed for lying, it is uncertain if he can regain the necessary trust and credibility for the public to believe him and then want to invite him into their lives and into their TV viewing ‘living rooms’ again.
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