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NBC’s Brian Williams Faces Credibility Crisis | Media Training Crisis Communications

News anchor Brian Williams has told people for years that he was shot down in a helicopter in Iraq in 2013.

It turns out, it never happened. Williams’ helicopter was following the helicopter that was shot down. Williams landed safely.

Oops! This is embarrassing, especially for someone who is paid north of $10 million dollars a year to get his facts straight and to tell non-fiction stories for a living.

However, Williams reacted swiftly and smartly yesterday, once the damaging revelations occurred. Here is how Williams responded to the soldier who pointed out the error:

“You are absolutely right and I was wrong…and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”

On Wednesday’s night’s Nightly News broadcast, Williams also offered an apology.

“This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by extension our brave military men and women veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not,”  Williams said. “I hope they know they have my greatest respect and also now my apology.”

So Williams has done 4 smart things:

  1. He said he was wrong.
  2. He apologized.
  3. He reiterated respect for the military
  4. He did everything quickly, before his enemies could use this in a series of news cycles to undermine Williams’ credibility even more.

Prediction: Williams will not lose his job over this incident. But, it’s not going away anytime soon. Anytime Williams delivers a critical story on any high profile politician or  military official, you can bet the first response from that person will be “How can you believe Brian Williams when he lies about being shot down in Iraq and then claims he can’t tell the difference between watching a helicopter being shot down and actually being shot down?!”

At this point, NBC has too much invested in Williams and he has to many other things working in his favor, plus the fact that Williams is not seen as an enemy by most members of the military or either political party. So he will likely weather this storm.

If you need help dealing with the media during a crisis, please call Media Training Worldwide at 212.764.4955

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