New Orleans Paper, Experts Question Brian Williams Dramatic Katrina Claims

AP Photo/Evan Agostini
AP Photo/Evan Agostini

The question of whether or not Brian Williams can survive lying for 12 years about being shot down by enemy fire over Iraq in 2003 is one thing. Now a whole new series of questions have arisen surrounding Williams’ heroic tales during Hurricane Katrina. Doubts surfaced online almost immediately after the helicopter story broke. Friday those questions jumped the firebreak into the mainstream media.

According to various interviews Williams gave over the years, while covering Hurricane Katrina for NBC News, he saw a dead body float past him in the French Quarter, contracted dysentery from swallowing flood water, and stayed in a New Orleans hotel infested with street gangs. “Our hotel was overrun with gangs,” Williams told Tom Brokaw during an interview. “I was rescued in the stairwell of a five-star hotel in New Orleans by a young police officer. We are friends to this day.”

Some of these claims, though, are not holding up under scrutiny, and mainstream media outlets like the Daily Mail, New York Daily News, and The New Orleans Advocate are openly questioning them.

The New Orleans Advocate simply does not believe Williams’ claims about the dead body and his being “curled up in a fetal position” with dysentery. The century-old paper reports that were no floodwaters in the French Quarter, the area where Williams says he saw a dead body float by. As far as dysentery:

A spokeswoman from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said dysentery is not one of the reportable diseases the agency tracks but that contaminated water sources are possible “transmission points” for dysentery.

Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former city health director who manned an EMS trailer that was set up in the 900 block of Dumaine Street, a block from his house in the French Quarter, said he was a fan of Williams but dubious of his claims.

“We were never wet. It was never wet,” he remarked of the conditions in the city’s most historic neighborhood.

As for dysentery, “I saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises and such, but I don’t recall a single, solitary case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward,” Lutz said.

There are already reports that Tom Brokaw, William’s mentor and predecessor in the NBC anchor chair, wants Williams fired. If it turns out Williams lied to Brokaw’s face during an interview about Katrina, the roof over 30 Rock is about to explode.


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