New details are emerging about about what appears to be another tall tale of wartime heroics from recently suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams.
In a May 15, 2012 appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Williams told 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.
It was like horses in the gate right before a mission this guy had a wrist band with his human target that he was after when we landed. It was one of the members of the Deck of Cards, a leadership target.
You can see the video clip here, beginning at the 58 second mark.
The Iraq War invasion begain on March 19, 2003. Three days into that invasion was March 22, 2003.
The chronology of Williams’s account does not match up with what we know about where he was and what he was reporting. We know, for instance, that the mission in which he claimed the “Chinook ahead of us” was hit by RPG began on March 24, 2003 and ended on March 26, 2003, when he filed his first reports about it with NBC.
Based on a 2003 book published by NBC Enterprises, Operation Iraqi Freedom: The Inside Story, it would have been very difficult for Williams to have flown into Baghdad on March 22, 2003. A passage from the introduction of that book indicates that he was otherwise occupied, providing regular reports to NBC from his position in Kuwait:
Suddenly the war was under way. [On March 19, 2003] NBC News correspondent David Bloom and his team were moving north with the 3rd Infantry Division. Correspondents Chip Reid and Kerry Sanders moved out with the Marines. Dana Lewis was reporting in from the 101st Airborne, and Brian Williams kept us apprised of missile attacks launched at Kuwait. Fred Francis was covering the Kurds in northern Iraq, and George Lewis was tracking the on-again, off-again role of the Turks right next door.
A passage from pages 38 and 39 of that 2003 book says that Williams covered Special Operations units, but only as they staged their missions in Kuwait, not from the perspective of riding along with them on missions to Baghdad:
NBC’s Brian Williams got closer. He was anchoring for NBC and MSNBC, and that enabled him to see Special Operations units staging missions into Iraq. Williams reported “These are no longer training runs. It’s the real thing. These are the men of U.S. Special Operations, and they have never let a camera record these events until now.”
A source familiar with the operations of NBC News told Breitbart News that Williams’s role as the face of the network during the early days of the invasion was critical, since the NBC embedded units travelling with the troops as part of the invasion could only broadcast during the day.
Given that need for a daily presence on air from March 19 until March 24, Williams’s tale of traveling on a mission to Baghdad during this period is highly unlikely.
A year earlier, on May 2, 2011, one day after news broke that Seal Team Six had killed Osama Bin Laden, Williams first told Letterman he had flown into Baghdad during the Iraq war with the special operations team that “had carried this out” in an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Beginning at the 20 second mark of this video clip, you can hear Williams say:
We have some idea which of our special operations teams carried this out. 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. But all of it was shared with me. It’s common when covering a war because to reveal that would be to endanger Americans.
The next day, May 3, 2011, Williams said this on the NBC Nightly News, according to the Huffington Post report:
Now, people might be hearing about SEAL Team Six. I happen to have the great honor of flying into Baghdad with them at the start of the war.
At least one former SEAL was skeptical of Williams’s newly rediscovered claims of wartime heroics.
“My initial reaction is it sounds completely preposterous. 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,” Brandon Webb, a former SEAL sniper told the Huffington Post.
A spokesman for the Army was equally skeptical.
“We do not embed journalists with this or any other unit that conducts counter-terrorism missions,” Ken McGraw, a spokesman for the United States Special Operations Command told the Huffington Post.
It is possible that Williams misspoke on his May 2012 David Letterman appearance.
Williams said he flew in to Baghdad with the special operations team three days into the 2003 invasion, but he could have meant to say three weeks into the invasion.
He broadcast live from the Baghdad airport on April 9, 2003, so that timeline would align with a claim of three weeks into the invasion.
While unintentionally misspeaking might explain the chronology problem, it still would not address the skepticism expressed by the Army and a SEAL veteran.