Journalists, media pundits, and even military veterans are weighing in on what should happen to Brian Williams following his admission that he fabricated key portions of a story he repeatedly told about his reporting experience during the Iraq War in 2003.
The New York Post, citing sources at the network, reported that longtime "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw – who Williams replaced – has been "making a lot of noise at NBC that a lesser journalist or producer would have been immediately fired or suspended for a false report."
But Brokaw pushed back late Friday, telling The Huffington Post that he never demanded Williams be fired. He stopped short of defending his former colleague, however, saying "His future is up to Brian and NBC News executives."
FoxNews.com's repeated calls and emails to reps at NBC News were not returned.
Brokaw was the anchor of NBC's flagship evening newscast when Williams filed his initial report in March 2003.
Williams got a bigger boost from Brokaw’s network news rival, former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather.
“I don’t know the particulars about that day in Iraq. I do know Brian. He’s a longtime friend and we have been in a number of war zones and on the same battlefields, competing but together,” Rather told Deadline.com. “Brian is an honest decent man, an excellent reporter and anchor – and a brave one. I can attest that – like his predecessor Tom Brokaw – he is a superb pro, and a gutsy one.”
Rather was forced to resign from his newscast in 2005 after it turned out a report on President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era National Guard service was based on forged documents.
Media pundits are also taking sides on the matter. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik led his column with: “If credibility means anything to NBC News, Brian Williams will no longer be managing editor and anchor of the evening newscast by the end of the day Friday.”
Lauren Ashburn, a contributor for The Hill, wrote: “[I]f NBC News has any shred of decency, Williams's career at NBC News is toast. He broke the cardinal rule of journalism: he lied.”
But Williams has support from an unlikely source, given the anger expressed by many veterans over his misrepresentations. Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), said veterans should forgive Williams.
“Persecuting him over this mistake will do little to help our veterans and service members,” Rieckhoff said on a Facebook post. “I am confident that in years ahead, Brian will continue to dedicate himself to our vets — as he always has — and inspire others to do the same.”
So far NBC is not taking any action against Williams, believing that his on-air apology Wednesday will suffice.
"He is not going to be suspended or reprimanded in any way," one source told The Post. "He has the full support of NBC News."
In 2003, Williams described how he was traveling in a group of helicopters forced down in the Iraq desert. On the ground, Williams said, he learned the Chinook in front of him "had almost been blown out of the sky;" he showed a photo of the aircraft with a gash from a rocket-propelled grenade.
In a 2008 blog post, Williams said that his helicopter had come under fire from what appeared to be Iraqi farmers with rocket-propelled grenade. He said a helicopter in front of his had been hit.
Then, in a 2013 appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS, Williams said that two of the four helicopters he was traveling with had been hit by ground fire, "including the one I was in."
On Wednesday, Williams recanted that story, claiming that he was flying in a Chinook helicopter behind the formation that took fire. However, on Thursday, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, which broke the story, reported that Williams was actually flying with a different helicopter company altogether, in a different direction, and linked to the attacked unit only by radio.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.