This one might turn out to be the death blow for suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams. Add his repeated SEAL Team 6/Bin Laden raid claims to the “dossier of lies” NBC must regrettably dig into to determine just how deep the “credibility” issues go.
Williams has claimed since 2011—to David Letterman, among others—that he embedded with SEAL Team 6 multiple times and had developed such a close relationship that one of them gave him a piece of the downed chopper from the famous Osama Bin Laden raid.
“We have some idea which of our special operations teams carried this out,” Williams said to Letterman May 2, 2011, the day after the raid. “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.”
The next night, Williams repeated the claim. “Now, people might be hearing about SEAL Team 6,” he said on the Nightly News. “I happen to have the great honor of flying into Baghdad with them at the start of the war.”
As Ed Morrissey notes, this story is problematic for a number of reasons:
First, the Navy has made clear that it does not embed reporters on special-ops missions.
“We do not embed journalists with any elements of that unit … bottom line—no,” a Special Operations Command official said according to a report by CNN’s Peter Bergen.
Another problem is the timing: according to the Huffington Post, Williams did not arrive in Baghdad until three weeks after the war began, yet he repeatedly claimed he flew in with them “at the start of the war.”
Then there’s the memento story, which another SEAL officer told CNN doesn’t “pass any sniff test.”
“About six weeks after the Bin Laden raid, I got a white envelope and in it was a thank-you note, unsigned,” Williams told Letterman in January 2013. “And in it was a piece of the fuselage of the blown-up Black Hawk in that courtyard. Sent to me by one of my friends.”
The SEAL team had to leave that helicopter behind after destroying it, and loaded up on the only remaining chopper left in the mission to get out. They would have been unlikely to have spent any time picking apart the downed chopper for souvenirs. Besides, the helicopter was destroyed after SEAL Team 6 had evacuated, which HuffPo confirmed with Special Ops command. The US only got back parts of the aircraft months later from Pakistan’s government, which was embarrassed and outraged by the operation when it became known.
“My initial reaction is it sounds completely preposterous,” said Webb. “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.”