NBC is investigating Brian Williams for embellishing six separate stories, including a previously unreported inconsistency involving the newsman’s 2011 reporting from Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
NBC announced in February that it was suspending Williams for six months after it emerged that he fabricated — if not outright lied — about riding in a Chinook helicopter with U.S. forces during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The network also opened an investigation — which is being carried out by five NBC journalists — to look into other stories Williams reported over the years. His claim to have seen a dead body floating along the flooded streets of New Orleans following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina came under scrutiny, as has his claim then that he witnessed a suicide at New Orleans’ Superdome.
Now, according to two sources who spoke to The New York Times, NBC is looking into whether Williams fibbed about his reporting during Egypt’s Arab Spring, which began in Jan. 2011 and stretched into the next month.
In Feb. 2011, Williams told Jon Stewart during an appearance on “The Daily Show” that when he was in the middle of the protests in Tahrir Square he came into close contact with pro-government forces riding on camels and horses. He told Stewart he “actually made eye contact with the man on the lead horse.”
When Stewart asked if the men riding the horses whipped protesters — which had been reported at the time — Williams acknowledged that they did.
“He went around the corner after I saw him, they pulled out whips and started beating human beings on the way,” Williams said.
But as The Times notes, Williams reported at the time “from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square” — not in the middle of the action. He told The Times the same version during an unrelated interview last year.
NBC’s investigation is being led by Richard Esposito, the network’s senior executive producer for investigations. According to The Times, when the investigation is wrapped up, the network will decide whether Williams, who became anchor of the “Nightly News” in 2004, will resume his position.
Besides the Iraq and Tahrir Square stories, The Times reports that NBC has also investigated Williams’ reporting from Israel in 2006. Williams claimed that he was riding in an Israeli helicopter as it flew over Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah. But in later interviews Williams said that he was riding in with a general in the Israeli Defense Force when a rocket was fired ahead of their helicopter, not under it.
The network is also looking into Williams’ claims about receiving a piece of the helicopter detonated during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.