The New York Times also reported that an “internal investigation” was afoot. And CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that Esposito was “leading NBC’s investigation into Brian Williams’ shifting stories about a 2003 Iraq War mission.”
Watch your language, folks! That appears to be the word from NBC News as the crisis mounts over Williams’s claims to have encountered enemy fire while embedded on a Chinook helicopter in March 2003. In a report following Williams’ announcement that he’ll withdraw temporarily from his broadcast while the story sizzles, Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz cited a source as saying that there’s no “internal investigation” of Williams — just a bout of “journalistic fact-gathering” to better respond to all the allegations that have been flying around. In a note to staff on Friday, NBC News President Deborah Turness addressed the NBC News “team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired.”
An NBC News source today confirmed the non-investigation story to the Erik Wemple Blog — that the fact-checking is an attempt to sort fact from fiction, rumor from truth. This is a smart undertaking, especially in light of the confusion regarding Williams’ travels during the invasion of Iraq. On Thursday, CNN reported direct, on-the-record statements from Rich Krell, who claimed to have served as the pilot in the Chinook carrying Williams & Co. and attested that the helicopter sustained small-arms fire. He later recanted, and it now appears that Williams saw no incoming fire, despite having reported that his aircraft was pummeled by both AK-47 and RPG fire.
Getting real here for a moment, however, there is no difference between an internal investigation of Brian Williams and a fact-checking inquiry prompted by his storytelling abuses. Especially if Williams is fair game for Esposito as he conducts his “fact-checking.” We’ve asked for clarity on the anchor’s availability to assist with this non-investigation and haven’t heard back. Word: The New York Daily News, the New York Times and Stelter needn’t consider running corrections on their reports of an “investigation.”
As to why NBC News would take this anonymous foray into the semantics of scrutiny, that’s worth some speculation. Perhaps they’re intent on saving Williams the ignominy of being the target of an internal investigation. If so, it’s an indication of their commitment to riding out the crisis, not to mention a shallow understanding of just how serious are the charges against him.