Fudging the Facts: Truth or Consequences
NBC-TV news anchor, Brian Williams, deserves credit for being an embedded reporter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But why do some high-profile people feel the need to inflate their personal history beyond the realm of fact? For example, Mrs. Bill Clinton (born in 1947) used to claim that her mother named her after Sir Edmund Hillary. Problem: It wasn’t until 1953 that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Mount Everest and became world famous. So, her mother was either psychic or waited six years to name her daughter.
In 1996, Mrs. Bill Clinton claimed that she and daughter, Chelsea, were shot at by snipers in Tuzla, Bosnia. But those with her, to include the performer SINBAD and then CBS News reporter, Sheryl Attkisson, say there was no sniper fire. The phony Bosnia story was repeated in Bill Clinton’s 2004 biography "My Life." Later, in 2008; Mrs. Clinton admitted she wasn’t under sniper fire.
Now, we learn that Brian Williams, in addition to imaging a story about riding inside a helicopter hit by RPG fire, embellished a news story about a body floating by his hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter during Hurricane Katrina. Problem: The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ leading newspaper, reported the French Quarter, the original high ground of New Orleans, was not flooded by the storm.
All this is reminiscent of Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History by B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley (1998), an expose about phony heroes who become the object of award-winning documentaries on national television, who become best-selling authors, and other phonies who have based their careers on inflated or even non-existent Vietnam service.
Recall, former presidential candidate and current Secretary of State, John Kerry, was accused of inflating his Vietnam War record. Kerry even became the subject of a documentary produced by Pulitzer Prize winner, Carlton Sherwood, entitled: "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," which was based, in part, on the book Stolen Valor. Later, more than a year after he was sentenced to prison on a child pornography charge, Kerry’s chief defender in the Swift Boat controversy was stripped of his Silver Star by President Obama’s Secretary of the Navy.
As of this writing, Brian Williams is off the air, pending an NBC investigation. The New York Post is reporting that Tom Brokaw, William’s predecessor, wants Williams fired.
With the risks of exposure so high, one wonders why people in the public eye think they can inflate their past or even lie about it and not be exposed? U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D), got an affirmative-action teaching post at Harvard based on her unsupported claim that she was a Native American. In 2007, Professor Ward Churchill was dismissed from the University of Colorado-Boulder, charged with making a like-wise unsupported Native American claim and for academic misconduct, including plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification. Later, Churchill won a wrongful-dismissal law suit; however, the firing was upheld on appeal by the University and no monetary damages were awarded.
In this age of technology, it seems like every word or action gets recorded somewhere by somebody and liars lie at their peril. Next thing you know, Al Gore will claim that he invented the Internet.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2015. William Hamilton.
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