Wait, Williams Said He Flew Into Baghdad With Seal Team Six

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Feb 15, 2015 3:45 PM
Wait, Williams Said He Flew Into Baghdad With Seal Team Six

I thought we were done with Brian Williams; he’s been suspended and “real news” has ended…for those in liberal fantasyland. Yet, there’s one more incident that’s even more absurd than the “RPG-hitting-my-Chinook” story, which never actually happened. The embattled anchor claims that in 2003, he flew into Baghdad with Seal Team Six–the guys who killed Osama bin Laden (via CNN):

On Thursday The Huffington Post identified questions about Williams' claims of flying into Baghdad with SEAL Team 6 and about "war memorabilia the anchor claims to have received as gifts, including a Navy SEAL's knife and a piece of the helicopter from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden."

CNN analyst Peter Bergen said on "Anderson Cooper 360" that he was told by sources in the Seal community that it would be impossible for Williams to have ever traveled with Seal Team 6.

"We do not embed journalists with any elements of that unit ... bottom line -- no," one Special Operations Command official said.

In the case of the memorabilia that Williams says he received from "his friends" in the Seal community: "that doesn't pass any sniff test," another Seal officer told Bergen.

A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment.

As Ed Morrissey wrote over at Hot Air:

Needless to say, this is not just unlikely, it’s almost certainly untrue as told. 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.

Here is the account (via HuffPo):

Starting in 2011, Williams began talking about a 2003 experience with SEAL Team 6, the elite team that killed bin Laden inside Pakistan on May 1, 2011. But at least one SEAL and comments from the U.S. Special Operations Command cast doubt on that tale.

"We have some idea which of our special operations teams carried this out," Williams said on "The Late Show With David Letterman" 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."

"Now, people might be hearing about SEAL Team 6," Williams said the next night, May 3, 2011, on “Nightly News." "I happen to have the great honor of flying into Baghdad with them at the start of the war."

While it's clear that Williams flew into Baghdad on April 9, 2003, and reported from the airport using a flashlight to illuminate his face, he didn’t get into specifics that evening, or on other network broadcasts. A Lexis-Nexis search of network transcripts didn't yield other examples of Williams mentioning the ride with SEAL Team 6.

But a year after the bin Laden raid, in May 2012, Williams elaborated in another appearance on Letterman's show.

“I flew into Baghdad, invasion plus three days, on a blackout mission at night with elements of SEAL Team 6, and I was told not to make any eye contact with them or initiate any conversation,” Williams said. (Three days after the U.S. invasion would have been March 22, 2003, not April 9, 2003, which was the day Williams broadcasted from the Baghdad airport.)

Later in the piece, Williams claimed to have received some very special gifts from the commandos. In one story that dates back to 2003, Williams said he told a soldier how much he admired his knife as he snacked on some Wheat Thins; Williams claims the knife was mailed to him weeks later.

Eight years later, pieces of the helicopter that crashed during the mission that killed bin Laden was mailed to him with an unsigned note.

“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," said Williams.

Brandon Webb, a Navy SEAL sniper who trained the late Chris Kyle, said this story sounds fishy. Moreover, a spokesman for Special Operations Command said they do not embed journalists with teams executing counterterrorism operations:

"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.

McGraw did not offer a debunking of Williams' tale. But he did raise one key point -- the helicopter was destroyed after the commandos left the compound, presumably on a timer. So any piece that went to Williams would have had to have been sent after the chopper was returned to the United States.

"We don't have any idea what someone could have sent Mr.Williams and what kind of claim that person may have made," said McGraw. "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."

Apparently, NBC is not only investigating Williams’ journalistic accounts, but his expenses as well. Additionally, it seems Tom Brokaw was instrumental in getting the now-disgraced anchor suspended for six months.

Right now, all eyes shift to Lester Holt in whether he can keep the dam from breaking because it looks as if Brian Williams might not be coming back.