Sunday, February 8, 2015

Brian Williams: Held Up At Gunpoint on Christmas

Shot down in the Middle East.   Saved a three week old puppy from a fire.  Survived a killer gang and a killer flood in Hurricane Katrina, and even a debilitating ailment, most associated with war time:  ingesting flood water and surviving dysentary. 
 If all this is not enough, we now learn that he was held up at gunpoint...for Christmas, which media is now reporting. 
These tales are not chronological but do show insight into his character.  Although people will soon, quickly enough, tire of "Brian Williams' Stories", this statement has enough information to be of educational value.  
By now, most know that Brian Williams is a deceiver, but as each new account is uncovered, two themes develop.  One theme is about Williams and the other about media.  The media are like sharks on blood.  Some have written that this latest tale has been "debunked" by locals.  The "debunking" is, itself, bunk.  Media simply spoke to someone who, in the 70's, was a few blocks away and does not believe Williams' story.  I don't believe his stories, either, but simply guessing is not the same as "debunking" his story.  
In his unending superhero-like language, here Williams describes being at the wrong end of a lethal weapon.  Rather than simple dismissal, is there something in the language that indicates deception, or even possible deception?
Like all statements, however, there are the 'fingerprints', or the profile of the author, that emerges.  What do you learn from this statement?  I have emphasized some of the wording, but with little analysis. 
What do you learn about the subject, himself, via his words?  Post your opinion in the comments section.  
"Let me set the scene for you. We're at dinner at the Holidome--the Holiday Inn in Joplin, Missouri. If you don't mind the whiff of chlorine from the pool during your meal, it's a lot like being in the islands. It's 1982, I'm twenty-three, and I've arrived. I'm going to work in television. The station that's hiring me--KOAM in Pittsburg, Kansas--has cows grazing at the base of the antenna for the transmitter. My $168-a-week salary is mighty skinny, but it's the down payment on a dream. Over are the days of pouring blueberry syrup at the pancake house, cleaning toilets, and looking up at a thug's snub-nosed .38 while selling Christmas trees out of the back of a truck. 
Note the passivity.  He does not say that he, himself, had a thug's snub nose .38 held to him. 
Note the articles.
Follow pronouns always. 
 This is more consistent with the pattern that most deceivers employ in the shaving of language, rather than the outright direct lie.  Follow the pronouns and note any changes. 
Television was a pretty outlandish target where I came from. I was the only guy in the firehouse back in Jersey reading The New York Times. I won't tell you what the other publications in the back room were. About the last thing you're going to tell your buddy on Engine 210 is "You know, I'm going to try to be a network-television journalist someday." So there I am, without a college degree, having a Salisbury steak at the Holidome with the manager of a station whose initials stand for Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri--a guy named Bill Bengtson. 
"One problem," Bill says. " is too East Coast, Irish-Catholic sounding. You're going to need a more germane, localized on-air name." 
Even then I realize I must remain open to these unexpected twists. But when Bill suggests a name, I'm crestfallen. How am I going to tell my mother that the name she so loved, Brian Douglas Williams, has been turned into Elmer Nord? 
I'm forever getting approached in airports by people who say, "I saw you on Jon Stewart. I didn't know you . . ." There's an uncomfortable pause, and I feel compelled to take them off the hook and finish the sentence: ". . . had a personality at all?" 
Well, my mother was a boisterous lover of life, very proud of the side of her family that was off-the-boat Irish. She was like an actress--equal parts Bea Arthur and Eve Arden--and her unstated credo was that life is too short. Incongruously, she married Calvin Coolidge, a taciturn New Englander whose mother dried and reused paper towels. Suffice to say, all it takes is a look in the mirror, or to hear myself on a recording, and I can conjure images of both my parents. 
I was raised in upstate New York in Elmira--a red spot in a blue state--and the two career tugs I felt in childhood also came to me in images of red and blue. What can I say? I've never been much for pastels. 
Elmira was honest-to-God small-town America, a place where you could always tell what your neighbors were watching on television because of the blue glow on their shades when the light dipped just before a commercial or during a scene change. If you were watching the same show, you saw the same blue dips. It was one of my first fascinations with television. I found television to be a romantic medium because it took you places. It might be to Los Angeles and Johnny Carson, to Dallas when Jack Ruby shot Oswald, to Vietnam, to the surface of the moon. 
About the biggest thing that ever happened in Elmira was the fire-department siren. One winter night, the siren announced a blaze that the old-timers still remember--at the Cash Electric store. I was in my pajamas, but my dad said, "C'mon, get in the car." When we got there, it seemed like half of downtown was burning. I was eight years old, shivering in pajamas and a winter coat, but my vivid image is the firefighters with icicles dripping off their helmets. So, blue was the glow off the television screen, and red was the call of the fire engines. 
Note within these sentences that he is now using the pronoun "I" and past tense verbs strongly.  
Compare this with the above, about the .38.
When I was ten, we moved to the Jersey shore. 
Note the strength of this sentence.  
Middletown, New Jersey, which is a township really, a sprawling place with no defined center. During my adolescence, we watched the Twin Towers grow. On the occasions that I walked with my dad to the train platform, I'd notice the cold, gray masses in their raincoats with briefcases heading into New York. They were mostly white males, and they mostly did not look happy. It was a pretty easy thing to vow at a young age that I wasn't going to become them. I wanted something different for myself. 
But I grew up in the land of exceedingly modest expectations. My high school guidance counselor sized up my lackluster grades and pointed me directly to the local community college. If you had told my father then that I was destined to become a network news anchor, he'd still be laughing now. 
The minute I was old enough, I volunteered for the are department. All I have in common with the guys in that picture behind us is I've put on the gear. I would never rank myself any higher. 
But I did hit it in the heyday. Regulations no longer allow firefighters to hang off the back step of the trucks. Back in my day, the thing to do was loop your arm over the pole, continue getting dressed in subzero temperatures, doing sixty miles per hour, careening around turns, while hopefully lighting a cigarette at the same time. That was the full package. 
He does not say that this is what he did.  Remember:  direct deception is rare while simply using words to leave an impression is much more common.  
Going into a fire is like driving a race car. You know you're alive, and every cell is working toward a unified cause. You're aware of every respiration. You're breathing through a self-contained device called a Scott Air-Pak. In the old days, you had fifteen minutes of air, and rookies quickly found out that the heart and respiration rate goes so fast that it's more like nine before the bell on your tank would start to ring. It was those hideous bells that you heard in the stillness after 9/11--the Air-Pak tanks that had expired and the motion detectors that go off when a firefighter doesn't move for a number of minutes. If you look at the documentaries about 9/11, in that dust, you're hearing the sound of guys whose air tanks have expired and aren't going to get up. And it closes up my throat. I would never, ever mention my name in the same sentence with a member of the FDNY. They were our personal gods--the best at what they do. Those guys who went into the World Trade Center, they knew. Like Captain Terry Hatton said to one of his friends: "Brother, something tells me I won't see you again." And then he went in. 
a.  Note:  in context, he just did. 
b.  What do you make of using "FDNY" in this context?  (think of the timing) 
c.  Note the change from the strong first person language prior to the fireman stories. 
All I ever did as a volunteer fireman was once save two puppies. 
Note how close he puts himself, via the pronoun "I" to the FDNY.  
Note how many puppies he saved.  When one does not work from experiential memory, it is difficult to keep track.  
But I have an understanding--a link to those guys. Going to sleep with my boots, pants, jacket, and helmet next to the bed for so many years is still, to this day, the best training for the life I lead. 
I've found the secret of life to be body placement. During a work-study job at Catholic University, I met Pope John Paul II on his visit to the campus simply by positioning myself at the top of the stairs of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I just figured that's where he'd be stopping. For me, it's like some force intervenes. Go forward. Meet that person. To this day, that force guides me. It's an emotional intelligence. IQ.
It took me from the firehouse in New Jersey to Washington, where I got an internship in the Carter White House while studying at George Washington University. It wasn't the classic dorm experience. I have no reunions. No one can say they were my college roommate because I was always living in nonstandard housing and constantly working to get by.
One day, I'm at the copy machine in the White House and Walter Mondale comes up behind me and clears his throat. A classic throat-clearing. I thought people only did that in movies, but it turns out vice-presidents do it, too. Anyway, it makes for an exceptionally good morning, and I run from the White House to the GW campus for class. I'm still wearing my West Wing hard pass on a chain, and when my professor sees it, he admits that he's only been to the White House on the public tour. And I thought to myself, This is costing me money that I don't have, and I'm a young man in too much of a hurry. So I left school. 
IQ is all about making your luck happen. Somehow it leads you to the right people. I was hired by a guy named Ken Schanzer at the National Association of Broadcasters. Schanzer would later become the president of NBC Sports. But at the time, it was he who introduced me to Bill Bengtson at KOAM and later conspired with him to play that little joke about changing my name to Elmer Nord.
I learned everything in Kansas, covered every story imaginable. That's the way to start in television. But I couldn't make it on my salary and went into terrible credit-card debt. I lost my credit, and there were times when I had absolutely no money to my name. I had to ask friends for meals. I once went five days without a dollar. To this day, I make sure I always have a folded dollar in my wallet. It's my talisman, my little reminder.
I returned to Washington and found myself perfectly positioned again. While working at WTTG, I met a beautiful woman. It was one of those lightning bolts, the stuff of inexpensive beach novels, but in this case it was true. In an instant I sensed Jane Stoddard's conscience, her integrity, and her intelligence. Unfailingly polite, funny, good company--she's a terrific mother to two great kids. She gives me not only, as Lyndon Johnson used to say, "the truth with the bark off," but a household that, compared with others in New York media circles, looks like something out of Leave It to Beaver.
At the end of each day now, I turn into the driveway and look at the house in front of me and know that I've worked for every cent of it. But I didn't even have a credit card when I met Jane. And to this day, I'm amazed that she showed such great faith in that total schlub.
People know me as the guy who took over for Tom Brokaw. But I've also been introduced by talk-show hosts with a video clip from a hurricane in Virginia Beach that was not intended to be funny.
I had noticed a strange dynamic of wind pushing itself through a gap between high-rises. The wind had nowhere else to go, and its velocity increased as it squeezed between buildings. I wanted to point out this phenomenon. My friend Mike Seidel had a wind gauge, and I asked him--while we were on live television--to hold it up so we could get a reading. Well, it broke, and Mike broke free from my grasp. He went flying. And so did I. I found out that Gore-Tex makes a perfect sail when it hits the wind at the right angle. It wasn't scary--it was almost exhilarating--but as soon as I hit the ground my cell phone was vibrating. It's my wife.
"Well, that was interesting," Jane says. "You know, that's going to be repeated quite a bit. You might make a call and ask if they could do it in context, to say what you were trying to show so it doesn't become just a Bob Saget moment."
Sadly, it has become a Bob Saget moment. Nothing against Bob Saget, who, to my knowledge, hasn't done anything quite so stupid.
Now that I'm enjoying success in lifeit's quite natural for me to want to share it with my father, who's eighty-eight. But it's the damnedest thing trying to get him to accept. Last Christmas, my wife and I told him to pick a spot on the planet, and for his present, we'd send him there. We were concerned that he was going to choose the Grover Cleveland rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike for a sandwich from a vending machine. But God love him, he's seen the light, and I think Gordon Williams is going to China this fall."


Anonymous said...

He seems to put everyone down, even if just a little bit, I don't know why, maybe to raise himself up more (in his eyes)?

This is so long, I'd have to go back and note everything piece by piece as I read it, but you can see that he was even a "hero" as a kid, when he was "shivering in his pajamas". The biggest thing that ever happened in his small town was, wouldn't you know, the fire sirens! Of course he was a part of the biggest thing! Lol. His recount of his childhood does seem the most honest in comparison to the rest, but still embellished all the same, along with little jabs at pretty much everyone he mentioned. I noticed a lot of present tense story telling in the rest of his misremembering.

"The media are like sharks on blood." Absolutely! Whoever and whatever the media chooses to pounce on, everyone else follows suit. Some people deserve a little of the pouncing, but the media looks the other way. I haven't fully figured that out yet - how or why they choose to ignore certain important things that Americans should be made aware of, yet they'll go in full shark-mode for other things.

Anonymous said...

I will come back to this when I have more than a minute, but why is "the" in red type before pancake house?

GetThem said...

I couldn't finish reading. I get it's good for learning, but I'm over his stories. They are so fake and annoying. I don't know how people that are close to him could stand listening to him ever speak lolll.

tania cadogan said...

The more he talks the more he leaks.
Any more leaks and the whole town will be under 6ft of water.

LC said...

Now, some of this is called Poetic License and is intended for its entertainment value. Isn't he, in fact, editorializing for Some of his 'storytelling'?

Lis said...

I found this to be very sad to read through yet I can't put my finger on exactly why. I need to read it again.

Lis said...

He owns the scene where he has been hired by KOAM and his dream has begun to come true. He owns "the" pancake house but does not own the experiences of a thug's .38 or selling trees out of "a" truck. (Although this could ring true if he was part of a group that piled into random trucks that they had no ownership in?)

His mother 'so loved his name.'

He believes that people do not see him as having a personality at all.

His impression of his mother is lively and positive (though his use of the word "boisterous" and emphasis of his mother's Irish identity makes me picture domestic strife or some kind of chaos). He tells us of his mother in a personal way- "my mother was..." but he refers to his father indirectly by saying his mother "married Calvin Coolidge." His father was taciturn (short on conversation/relationship, cold) and his father's mother appears to have been so as well.

He needs to make a point of the politics of the area he was raised.

He was aware of his neighbors' tv sets behind their shades. Was he watching tv with his family? Or watching his neighbors windows?

A big event in his childhood is going to watch a fire *with his father.* No longer "Calvin Coolidge" or his "father" but his "dad" says, "C'mon, get in the car" (but does not use his son's name.) "We got there" shows closeness. Is his father impressed by the firefighters? Does the shivering boy see that?

He goes to the train platform "with" his father. There is distance.

He tells us his father would have laughed if someone told him Brian would succeed at his dream.

He volunteers at the fire dept but does not feel like one of "those guys." He is not one of them.

He tells of daring firefighter adventures but not as one who actually did them.

Describing the life of a firefighter, particularly those of 9/11, he idolizes them for their bravery and valor and seeks to place himself among them, if only linguistically. He was not created for that life, he did not have the qualities for it. Did he yearn to have?

He is proud of his "emotional intelligence" that guides him on how to get ahead. He has found a way to achieve success that does not depend on him being "one of those guys." "IQ is all about making your luck happen."

(Perhaps what we are seeing in Brian Williams is the process he discovered of how to make "his luck happen.")

He met "a beautiful woman." Distance!
Her qualities:
1. conscience
2. integrity
3. intelligence

He does not speak of love or of falling in love.

She "gives him a household" that "looks like" "something out of" Leave it to Beaver - "compared to others".

She is a terrific mother to "two great kids." Are these even his kids? He does not tell us. Is he distant from his own children as his father was from him?

He relates an anecdote which shows his wife to have been watching his tv performance and instantly ready to critique him, a put-down comparing him to (I assume) a clip from America's Funniest Home Videos, which was originally hosted by Bob Saget.

Further along, he refers to his wife as "my wife" rather than as Jane, even though he has (awkwardly) introduced us to her.

Is Brian Williams close to anyone? Is he an island? Do his accomplishments fill the void?

Now that he is enjoying success in life, he still cannot seem to get his father's attention or understanding but he "thinks" "Gordon Williams is going to China this fall." In this statement he implies that his father has come to understand and accept him but does not tell us so. There is still distance.

What would Gordon Williams think of his son now, I wonder?

Is there salvation for a man like Brian Williams?

Lois Lettini said...

This may be extremely simplistic -- but I have been wondering -- since this story broke -- IF Williams were Irish and sure enough, his mother was/is -- according to the above. Therein, I think, lies the answer. Rightly or wrongly, the Irish love to embellish their stories, and in some instances just literally make them up. He probably doesn't think he was doing anything wrong!! But, of course, he WAS!!

Lois Lettini said...

This may be extremely simplistic -- but I have been wondering -- since this story broke -- IF Williams were Irish and sure enough, his mother was/is -- according to the above. Therein, I think, lies the answer. Rightly or wrongly, the Irish love to embellish their stories, and in some instances just literally make them up. He probably doesn't think he was doing anything wrong!! But, of course, he WAS!!

Peter Hyatt said...


in terms of the Irish storytelling, you are correct. He uses flowery language. My family is all from Ireland.

Story telling is one thing, while lying is another.

We do take an account of possible Irish story telling slipping into language, which I think is your point. (if so, you are correct).

It shows itself in sometimes using present tense verbs, so we must be careful not to rush to conclude deception.

In Williams' case, he is deceptive, in that, he intends to deceive, and he ascribes grandiose motives to his actions.

He likely bullied the NBC crew into silence and I believe he has a life long history of not only story telling, but lying.

Thanks for interesting point,


tania cadogan said...

Beleaguered NBC anchor Brian Williams could have exaggerated another near-death story involving himself - this time from a stint covering Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah.

Williams seemingly embellished an account of a helicopter ride with Israeli Defense Force officials to imply he was almost hit by a rocket, when in fact he was nowhere near enemy fire.

The potentially pumped-up claims came a little more than a year after the event, when Williams recounted a slew of now-doubtful anecdotes about his time in the midst of mortal danger.

It came amid claims that NBC bosses had been told about Williams' alleged track record of puffing up stories, and were baffled by the habit.

Williams told a student reporter he was 'lucky to survive' the helicopter ride, organized by the Israeli military to give his NBC news crew an aerial perspective of the conflict, near the city of Haifa.

In a recorded interview ahead of a speaking engagement at Fairfield University, Connecticut, he told how rockets whizzed by 'just underneath' the Blackhawk he was riding in with an Israeli general.

However, a broadcast segment he himself filmed that day makes no mention of being inches from death, only mentioning plumes of smoke and a rocket he saw fired six miles away.

In a Youtube video, he told a report for the student-run News 64 channel: 'I have been very lucky to survive a few things. I tend to forget the war with Hezbollah in Israel a few years back.

'There were Katyusha rockets passing just underneath the helicopter I was riding in.'

However, the fleeting reference does not tally with his own NBC report, dated July 18, 2006.

There he states that the chopper was 1,500ft in the air, and that the four-star general on board with him mentioned that there was ground-based activity directly below them.

He continued: 'Then, I noticed something out the window. From a distance of six miles, I witnessed a rocket launch.

'A rising trail of smoke, then a second rocket launch, an orange flash and more smoke — as a rocket heads off toward Israel.'

He does not suggest that the rocket came anywhere near him.

The seemingly conflicting accounts, uncovered by the Washington Post, emerged after Williams backed out of anchoring NBC's flagship Nightly News show.

It came after it was claimed that NBC executives were tipped off about Williams's behavior, but did not know how to rein him in.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that news bosses were told last year his claims sometimes did not stack up, and that his tendency to exaggerate had become 'a joke' among NBC staffers.

Over the weekend Williams backed off from the anchor's chair for an unspecified length of time after a firestorm over another helicopter anecdote he had been repeating for years - this time in Iraq.

Williams issued an on-air apology after saying he was on board a helicopter which was downed after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, when he was in fact on a different one.

tania cadogan said...


Some days later, after intense criticism of that anecdote and others, he withdrew from presenting the news.

He said: 'In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.

'As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days...

'Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.'

In the Fairfield interview, Williams also grabs the opportunity to give his Iraqi anecdote an outing.

He said: 'A few years before that you go back to Iraq and I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us and it hit the chopper in front of ours.

'And I'm so fortunate to be sitting here.'

Though this version of the story does not place Williams inside the under-fire vehicle, it does imply that he was right next to the action.

Veterans who were riding in the chopper, which managed to land after the RPG round did not explode, have since said Williams's helicopter was not following them, and was nothing to do with their mission.

In fact, they said, he was around half an hour behind, and only found out about the brush with death after he had landed.

Read more:

It's starting to look like any story he covered, where there was a hint or danger or injury, he exaggerated his role in it.

I suspect almost every major news story he has been involved in will indicate deception(to some degree ) of risk of harm to himself.
It seems he is attaching himself to those who doing genuinely dangerous jobs such as military, firefighters (is this why he became a volunteer so he could claim to be a firefighter ommitting the volunteer part) and uptalking his roles in fires.

I wonder if he ever applied to the military or emergency services full time and was refused?
he then opted to go into the media where he gets to live the experience without risk of genuine danger.
I was there when xxx happened implying he was involved in said event as a participant rather than as an observer.
Others take the risk, he takes the limelight, lookie me even though i am not trained/qualified i was right in the middle of it when xxx happened. I was lucky to walk away unscathed whilst my 'buddies' got injured etc.

I can see him reporting on a fire and a cute liitle puppy or kitten is pulled out and the firefighters give it cpr etc and him pushing his way through, sticking his camera in on the animal making it appear as if it is him reviving it whilst breathlessly urging it to breath and come on buddy work with me etc and should it survive take the credit and if it didn't practically weeping on air saying he tried but i wasn't to be and how his 'buddies' crowded round him consoling him and saying "you did your best"

Rather than reporting the news as an impartial observer, he makes himself centre stage of the news, I was there, i know what it is like to...

He is the type who you see outed in the media wearing fake uniforms and unearned medals taking part in parades and seeking to benefit from the respect due to others.

I wonder, since he does not respect us the public, does he respect his family, his friends, himself?

socurious said...

Why aren't we looking at what he said about his professor which was the most bombastic of all?! Did you know in total he finished 18 units out of those three colleges, that's 6 classes. You may have assumed that professor was diminished because he didn't have as many qualifications as that young man in a hurry, but remember, he probably wasn't referring to an advanced journalism or poli sci professor. At 6 c
asses he was most likely still taking his core classes. That professor could have been a math teacher. But by leaving it ambiguous it has made us think that he 1. is headed towards an advanced degree, or 2. was close to graduating and 3. that he was more prestigious than his own professor who may have had nothing to do with poli sci. Also, who knows how that was even said? He might have been mocked. Much ado about loogey.

Rachael said...

Did he actually attend classes at George Washington? The statement that no one could claim to be his room mate seemed very out of place and unnecessary. As if he is premptively providing an alibi for when interested parties investigate his college years, before he decided he was above college and 'left'.