Now that everything he has ever said about anything will be under scrutiny for a very long time, there is a lot out there. As of now, though, it is Brian Williams’ Tales from Katrina that are receiving an extra level of scrutiny. And they are not holding up very well. Witnesses are calling Williams’ Katrina stories of close calls at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel “crazy.”
Williams told “The Great Deluge” author Douglas Brinkley that “armed gangs had broken into the 527-room hotel, brandishing guns and terrorizing guests.” Williams claims that at the time he was lying helpless on a mattress in a stairwell delirious with dysentery. He finally summoned the strength to escape, and after wading through two feet of water he made it through the front door of the hotel. Outside, things just got worse. Williams says he was confronted by a street gang trying to steal his car. A National Guardsman appeared just in time.
That is the stuff of action movies. The problem is that witnesses who were there say it didn’t happen.
[A] man named Richard Rhodes who stayed at the Ritz as well said he didn’t remember any gangs, telling the New Orleans Advocate that Williams had exaggerated. The hotel had allowed employee families to bunker down. “There was a kind of criminal element that had gotten in, and somebody had worked there and they brought their family,” Rhodes told the paper. “They were leaving the doors open, and other people were trying to come. Two off-duty police officers were running around keeping the peace. There were scary moments, but criminal gangs? That’s crazy.”
A local activist named Leo Watermeier said much the same to the Guardian. He said there weren’t any gangs. “People were afraid that was the case,” he said. “I don’t think that really was the situation. Once darkness came, that was frightening. Just because it was pitch-black. And you felt vulnerable. … But I didn’t see anything.”
As if that’s not bad enough, even Williams’ claim he was sick with dysentery is under challenge, as is the story of lying on a mattress in a stairwell.
According to another reporter, “He had a battery-powered TV that he watched from his eighth-floor Ritz-Carlton room when the hotel became ‘uninhabitable.'”
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC