Dysentery? Floating Body? Williams' Claims Under Fire

Now NBC anchor's Hurricane Katrina stories are under the microscope
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2015 12:34 PM CST
Dysentery? Floating Body? Williams' Claims Under Fire
This April 4, 2012, file photo shows NBC News' Brian Williams, at the premiere of the HBO original series "Girls," in New York.   (AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca, File)

Brian Williams has been apologizing for falsely recalling being on a helicopter that came under fire in Iraq. Now, more controversy regarding the NBC anchor's memory issues: The New Orleans Advocate says claims he made while covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005—including an account of contracting dysentery and watching a man's body float by—have "raised eyebrows." "When you look out of your hotel window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in … Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country," he said of New Orleans conditions post-storm in a 2006 interview with Michael Eisner. But the French Quarter is elevated, the Advocate notes, and largely wasn't hit by floodwaters that devastated much of the city—though New York magazine does point out reported instances where French Quarter areas did appear to have been flooded.

In an interview with Tom Brokaw last year, Williams also revealed he had "accidentally ingested some of the floodwater" and "became very sick with dysentery." But a former city health director tells the Advocate that "I don't recall a single ... case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward"; he adds he also doesn't know of anyone who consumed floodwater, but "my dogs drank it, and they didn't have any problems." Also questionable, as per New York, is Williams' story of witnessing a suicide in the Louisiana Superdome. In the Brokaw interview, Williams says he witnessed the suicide firsthand; in NBC's In His Own Words documentary, he says, "We'd heard the story of a man killing himself falling from the upper deck." Is it possible that Williams is really just having unintentional mind melts? According to memory researchers interviewed in New York, it's unlikely, but still possible. "Memory is totally weird like that," one says. (More Brian Williams stories.)

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