Embattled NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ claim that he once flew on a mission with Navy SEAL Team Six is far-fetched and likely untrue, one former SEAL said on Sunday.
“What Brian Williams is saying, none of it can be true. For a reporter to be embedded with SEAL Team Six or any Tier One unit, that just doesn’t happen,” Don Mann, the former SEAL, told CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter.
Williams was recently suspended for six months without pay from his nightly news anchor gig after it came to light that he had lied on numerous occasions when he said that he was flying on a Chinook helicopter in March 2003 during the Iraq War that was downed by an enemy RPG.
Since that story was exposed as a fabrication, other tales Williams has told over the years have come under intense scrutiny.
That includes Williams’ claims that he once flew with SEAL Team Six and that he received a piece of the fuselage from the Blackhawk helicopter that the elite unit flew — and ultimately destroyed — during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011.
A day after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Williams told David Letterman of SEAL Team Six:
“It happens to be a team I flew into Baghdad with, on the condition that I would never speak of what I saw on the aircraft, what aircraft we were on, what we were carrying, or who we were after.”
Williams elaborated on that embedded mission a year later in another interview with Letterman.
“I flew into Baghdad, invasion plus three days, on a blackout mission at night with elements of SEAL Team Six, and I was told not to make any eye contact with them or initiate any conversation,” Williams said, indicating that he flew with the unit on March 22, 2003.
But Mann says that SEALs would have never let Williams tag along with them.
“The objectives of SEAL Team or SEAL Team Six or any Tier One unit is to conceal our faces. The Tier One faces, their identities, tactics, the techniques, procedures, the equipment they use,” Mann said.
“The last thing in the world we would want is have a reporter sitting in a helicopter embedded with one of these units. It would hurt the United States in many ways.”
Webb also dismissed Williams’ claim to have received a piece of the Blackhawk helicopter’s fuselage in the mail. He said that SEALs have given gifts to presidents and CIA directors in the past, but never to reporters.
Mann’s skepticism towards Williams is also held by Brandon Webb, a former SEAL sniper.
“My initial reaction is it sounds completely preposterous,” Webb, who helped train Chris Kyle, the most prolific sniper in U.S. military history, told the Huffington Post. “There’s a healthy dislike towards embedded journalists within the SEAL community. I can’t even remember an embed with a SEAL unit. And especially at SEAL Team Six? Those guys don’t take journalists with them on missions.”
“We do not embed journalists with this or any other unit that conducts counter-terrorism missions,” United States Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw told the Huffington Post.