The dysentery of the $10 million-a-year journalist: Brian Williams back story

Media-CulpaThe anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, which CBC News describes, in all seriousness, “as one of the most respected TV news organizations in the world.” The media is in a tizzy, flabbergasted about the lies and “memory loss” of a colleague, whom they present as a lone journalist.

NY Post – Williams claimed to have gotten dysentery from drinking floodwater and seeing dead bodies float past his hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter while covering Hurricane Katrina.

However, the The New Orleans Advocate noted that the French Quarter was not flooded and quoted a local health expert who did not recall anyone getting such a stomach ailment.

Williams recalled his bout with the bug in an interview with Tom Brokaw last year, when he said: “I accidentally ingested some of the floodwater. I became very sick with dysentery.”

The Advocate said a public health official never heard of people getting things like dysentery after the storm. 

Wikipedia – Dysentery is an inflammation of the intestine causing diarrhea with blood. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain, and rectal tenesmus (a feeling of incomplete defecation). It is caused by a number of types of infection such as bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, or protozoa. It is a type of gastroenteritis. The mechanism is an inflammatorydisorder of the intestine, especially of the colon.

Williams played the role of a scout eagerly pointing out potential targets

Justin Raimondo, Anti War (Feb. 6, 2015) – Way back in 2007, I pointed out the pernicious role Williams played in the run-up to the Iraq war, loyally echoing the War Party’s triumphalist nonsense. Citing Howard Kurtz’s 2007 book, Reality Show: Inside the Last Great Television News War, I pointed out in this space that Williams was a reliable foot soldier in the neocons’ war on truth. As Kurtz put it:

Not content to cheerlead from the sidelines, Williams played the role of a scout eagerly pointing out potential targets:

“For [Brian] Williams, it all went back to 9/11. As a citizen, he had thought on that fateful day, thank God that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were on this team. How together we all seemed. In Williams’s view, there was something about the murderous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that, in the eyes of the White House press corps, gave Bush a stature that could not be violated.”

Williams, said Kurtz, doesn’t “enjoy looking back on the run-up to war,” perhaps because he realizes his own key role in making the whole disaster possible…

And as the war dragged on, the cover-up continued. ….Although Williams acknowledged “how deeply the war had divided the country,” Kurtz informed us: “No one in their right mind, [Williams] believed, would want America to pull out tomorrow. He did not want America to withdraw from Iraq.” ….

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One could write an entire book about how Williams is nothing more than a government megaphone, along with his network, NBC.

The Williams record in covering up the sickening horrors wreaked by the US military in its never-ending campaign to re-order the world to Washington’s liking goes way back. When NATO jet fighters bombed a passenger train in Serbia – by “mistake” – killing a dozen and wounding dozens more, Williams intoned that visuals of the train attack “are so graphic that we cannot show them on television for fear of upsetting viewers.”….

In 2003, as the neocons were crowing that the war they’d spent the last decade ginning up was a triumph, Williams was joining the chorus:

“They are calling this the cleanest war in all of military history. They stress they’re fighting a regime and not the people, using smart bombs, not dumb, older munitions. But there have been and will be accidents.”

By the end of it, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians had been slaughtered – by “accident,” no doubt…..

As the indispensable Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio put it at the time:

“You are the one who has been doing the misleading. You are the one.”


“Memory loss” in action

Nima Shirazi, Wide Asleep in America (Sept. 30, 2013) – Even more alarming, though, was a claim from NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, which opened his Friday evening broadcast on September 27.  Speaking of the surprising telephone conversation between Presidents Obama and Rouhani, Williams said, “This is all part of a new leadership effort by Iran – suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons! – what they want is talks and transparency and good will. And while that would be enough to define a whole new era, skepticism is high and there’s a good reason for it.”

Really, Brian? Suddenly? In truth, the Iranian government has constantly reiterated its wholesale condemnation of nuclear weapons and refusal to ever acquire them – for over twenty years.  Apparently the host of what is often the most-watched evening newscast in the country believes pretending the statements by Rouhani represent a sea change in Iranian policy, rather than undeniable consistency, is good for ratings.

There is literally no way Brian Williams believes this is breaking news unless he has both short-term and long-term memory loss. Why not? He himself has reported on Iran’s repudiation of nuclear weapons for years now.

On September 19, 2006, Williams asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to respond to what he deemed the U.S. government position that Iran “[s]top enriching uranium toward weapons,” which made no sense in the first place since no one on the planet – including the United States – had ever claimed Iran was enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.

Ahmadinejad replied, “We have said on numerous occasions that our activities are for peaceful purposes… Did Iran build the atomic bomb and use it? You must know that, because of our beliefs and our religion, we’re against such acts. We are against the atomic bomb.”

Williams interviewed Ahmadinejad again in late July 2008 and asked the Iranian president, “Is Iran’s goal to have nuclear power or to be a nuclear power in the sense of possessing weapons?”

Ahmadinejad again was clear: “We are not working to manufacture a bomb. We don’t believe in a nuclear bomb… Nuclear energy must not be equaled to a nuclear bomb… A bomb, obviously, is a very bad thing. Nobody should have such a bomb.”

Williams’ NBC colleague Ann Curry also conducted a number of interviews with Ahmadinejad over the past few years during which the Iranian president expressed identical sentiments.

Nevertheless, as The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald puts it, “NBC News feels free to spout such plainly false propaganda – ‘suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons!’ – because they know they and fellow large media outlets have done such an effective job in keeping their viewers ignorant of these facts. They thus believe that they can sow doubts about Iran’s intentions with little danger that their deceit will be discovered.”

Despite the increasingly rapid pace of renewed Iranian and American communication and cooperation, the media’s disinformation campaign against Iran has yet to slow down.  The journalists, editors, analysts and anchors who traffic in dishonest reporting should be held accountable.

“Message force multipliers”: The Pentagon program of promoting “military analysts”

One could write an entire book about how Williams is nothing more than a government megaphone, along with his network, NBC. One chapter in that book would be the story of the Pentagon program of promoting “military analysts,” such as Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who appeared on NBC and other networks to give the government-approved “spin” to events in Iraq. Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly referred to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.” 

The Pentagon military analyst program was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit “key influentials” to help sell a wary public on “a possible Iraq invasion.” Former NBC military analyst Kenneth Allard called the effort “psyops on steroids.”

Williams covered that one up as long as he could, and then issued a perfunctory denial. Few companies benefit more from massive military spending and wars than NBC’s own parent company, General Electric. 

Snake.Media.AP.UPI.CIAGlenn Grunwald, Salon (Nov. 30., 2008) – Barstow (David, in an a front-page exposé in the New York Times) focuses today on the numerous, undisclosed conflicts of interest of Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who continues to be featured frequently by NBC News as an objective analyst as he opines about war policies in which he has a substantial (and concealed) financial stake.

Some of the key facts which Barstow reports concerning the improper behavior of McCaffrey and NBC News were documented all the way back in April, 2003, in this excellent article from The Nation, which Barstow probably should have credited today.  That article — entitled “TV’s Conflicted Experts” — detailed the numerous defense contractors to which McCaffrey had a substantial connection — including Mitretek, Veritas and Integrated Defense Technologies, all featured by Barstow today — and highlighted how the policies and viewpoints McCaffrey was advocating as a “military analyst” on NBC directly benefited those companies. …

A couple of weeks after Barstow’s story was published in April, I noted that Brian Williams had taken the time on his blog to write about and mock multiple, trivial NYT stories from that week, yet had never once mentioned — either on his network news show or even on his blog — the extremely incriminating story in the NYT about his repeated reliance over the years on retired Generals — such as McCaffrey and Downing — who were active participants in the Pentagon’s propaganda program and who were burdened with all sorts of economic ties that created clear though undisclosed conflicts of interests.

In response, Williams finally addressed Barstow’s story on his blog (but not on his network news broadcast), yet did so only by ignoring all of the specific, substantive issues that were raised, instead offering a patronizing little lecture about how Williams himself had developed what he called “a close friendship” with both McCaffrey and Downing, and could therefore assure us that “these men are passionate patriots” who would never offer anything but the most honest and forthright assessments.  That was the full extent of NBC and Williams’ response to this story.

Canadian media is shocked

Toronto Star discovers the old news – 16 hours ago “ Brian Williams has apologized for falsely saying on the air that he was in ahelicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while in Iraq in 2003.”

Alison Smith, CBC News – “Experts may theorize about the ‘fog of memory’ — Williams’s term for why he said what he said — but I find it hard to imagine how the memory of what happened in the Iraqi desert that day wouldn’t be crystal clear, even 12 years on….

“They are not just representing themselves, but also all those reporters, producers, editors, and video journalists who actually get the program on the air every night.

‘So it is not just his own credibility that has been affected, he has damaged that of his colleagues, too. What’s more, given his profile, some would argue he’s hurt journalists everywhere.”

This network presents such “analysts” as “independent” third party “authorities” without disclosing their military credentials and real affiliations as Janice Gross Stein (former DND Chair Strategic Forum), Gynne Dyer (Board, Royal Military College), David Charters (Reserve officer, Centre for Conflict Studies), and many others from “foreign policy” and “strategic studies” centres financed by the Department of National Defence and the U.S. government. That would be another chapter in the book.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams poses with Super Bowl Champion Football Coach Bill Cowher and the USMC Color Guard at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Annual Heroes Gala in November 2010 | Joe Kohen/Getty Images for IAVA

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams poses with Super Bowl Champion Football Coach Bill Cowher and the USMC Color Guard at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Annual Heroes Gala in November 2010 | Joe Kohen/Getty Images for IAVA

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