Following Brian Williams' suspension from NBC News earlier this week, new questions have emerged about the disgraced anchor's time with Navy SEALs, his account of Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to his college, and his coverage of the Berlin Wall's dismantling.
The Huffington Post reports that Willliams' story about being embedded with the Navy's SEAL Team 6 during the Iraq War in 2003 has come under scrutiny, in part because the elite squadron has apparently never allowed journalists to travel with them.
"My initial reaction is it sounds completely preposterous. There's a healthy dislike towards embedded journalists within the SEAL community," said Brandon Webb, a writer and former SEAL sniper who helped train Chris Kyle. "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."
"We do not embed journalists with this or any other unit that conducts counter-terrorism missions," United States Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw told HuffPost about SEAL Team 6. It's not clear whether Williams could have come into contact with the team outside the formal embed process.
Williams has also claimed that a SEAL sent him a piece of the helicopter that crashed during the raid into Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound.
"About six weeks after the Bin Laden raid, I got a white envelope and in it was a thank-you note, unsigned," Williams told David 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."
While Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw didn't completely debunk Williams' claim, he did tell the Huffington Post that the helicopter was not destroyed until after the SEALs left the bin Laden compound, which means that it's unlikely Williams received an authentic part of the aircraft.
"We don't have any idea what someone could have sent Mr. Williams and what kind of claim that person may have made," McGraw said. "But, while the details of the raid remain classified, I can say the aircraft was not blown up until after US forces had left the compound."
Williams did indeed witness some of the wall's physical removal. But "the night the wall came down" is widely recognized as November 9, 1989, an iconic date with particular significance to Williams' "Nightly News" predecessor Tom Brokaw.
While Williams has publicly and repeatedly admitted to arriving one day after Brokaw, he's repeated the claim that he was there with the former anchor during the initial dismantling at least one other time. "Here's a fact: 25 years ago tonight, Tom Brokaw and I were at the Berlin Wall," Williams said at a gala held on November 8, 2014, according to CNN.
And if that wasn't enough, new questions have arisen about whether Williams met Pope John Paul II during a 1979 visit to Catholic University, Williams' alma mater. During some accounts, Williams claimed he was merely at the school during the visit; in other versions he describes, with varying detail, actually meeting the pope. From CNN:
In 2002, Williams was quoted as saying that he chipped in with the school's preparations as an employee in the campus public relations office.
If he had any interaction with the pope, Williams didn't mention it then. But that changed in 2004, a year before the death of Pope John Paul II. While delivering the commencement address at Catholic University that year, Williams said the "highlight" of his time at the school "was in this very doorway, shaking hands with the Holy Father during his visit to this campus."
After reporting the news of the pope's death in 2005, Williams said on-air that he was "thinking back to the first time I met him at Catholic University, I guess it's 25 years ago now."
Days later, Williams provided a more colorful version of his meeting.
"I have to begin with a beautiful day in 1979," Williams said in an interview published by NBC News. "I was a student at Catholic University, and over the course of two hours, chatted up a Secret Service agent who spilled like a cup of coffee and told me that the pope would be coming our way, straight up the steps of a side door at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I positioned myself and held out my hand and said, 'Welcome to Catholic University, Holy Father.' And he embraced my hand with both of his, made the sign of the cross, and said a blessing to me."
While these inconsistencies aren't as cut and dried as the one that led to Williams' suspension, their discovery certainly doesn't bode well for Williams, or for the odds of his returning to NBC in six months.