Is Brian Williams Really Making a Comeback?

In 2015, esteemed news anchor Brian Williams shot his blossoming career in the foot. Williams had been a trusted member of the NBC Nightly News team after taking over for the beloved Tom Brokaw in 2004. Then, a scandal was discovered in which Williams did not come out on top.

Brian Williams
Brian Williams | Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

Brian Williams told false war stories

While he was covering the Iraq War in 2003, Brian Williams acted as the eyes of Americans while we watched events unfold from our living rooms. The war took over our televisions at night and we waited to hear news of how our heroes were faring in the Middle East. Williams was our source of information and our trusted liaison between home and the war. 

Later, on several different occasions, Williams detailed the events of his time in Iraq to include that the helicopter he was flying on was hit by enemy fire and forced to land.

“Two of the four helicopters were hit, including the one I was in,” Williams told David Letterman, discussing how he had survived a helicopter landing after it had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade from enemy ground fire.

U.S. Veterans called Brian Williams out on his falsehoods

Once NBC aired coverage of Williams’ reports of being on a helicopter that was shot down, it wasn’t long before the soldiers who were there that day began to speak out. They commented on NBC’s Facebook page and spoke out to other reporters who would listen. 

Stars and Stripes reporter Travis Tritten explains that the soldiers were not just unhappy about the lies, but felt personally attacked by the false reports being publicized. They wanted the helicopter pilots and the soldiers who were actually there to get credit for their bravery.

The aftermath of Brian Williams’ lies

A deep investigation began into Williams’ claims. Soon it was clear that Williams’ many statements revealed numerous fictional additions in his reporting. In fact, there were more than ten separate instances where the anchor embellished the story regarding his involvement in something he was reporting on. Williams had lost the trust of Americans, and his validity as a source of accurate news.

How did NBC react to the Brian Williams scandal?

Once it was discovered that Williams had reimagined several of his experiences covering the Iraq war, and also told some interesting fictional tales about his time covering Hurricane Katrina, NBC dove deeper into investigating his falsehoods. Ultimately, the network placed Williams on 6-month probation and then demoted him to a position working as an anchor for its sister station MSNBC.

Is Brian Williams making a comeback?

Williams has been working hard at coming back from his broadcasting exile and has been doing a pretty good job of it. His banishment to a late night time slot has actually been really good for his struggling career. 

Lately, the anchor has been the host of MSNBCs late night The 11th Hour with Brian Williams. The show has seen some excellent ratings. His show beats out both FOX and CNN’s shows in the same time slot again and again.

“I think I’m the recipient of something that is uniquely American,” he said during a recent interview at his Rockefeller Center office. “People like a comeback.”

Brian Williams’ return to the nightly news

It has been speculated that his rise to success, and ultimately a more positive image in the eyes of Americans will, in turn, bring about his return to a nightly news anchor position. Although he has had some moments back in the limelight, Williams has said he is pretty happy in his late-night position at present.