Brian Williams was known as one of the most trusted newsmen in America, but that reputation is in tatters since the news broke that he misrepresented the facts about his helicopter being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003 during the Iraq invasion.
Mr. Williams was, in fact, in the helicopter behind the chopper that was hit – a compelling story in itself. So, why embellish? According to Curt Reisinger, PhD, Director, EAP Services, North Shore-LIJ Health System, it is very important to keep a proper perspective and sometimes stretching the truth is considered harmless.
“Such as when you hold back your sincere opinion when your aunt asks how you like her new pink and green hat. Others (tales) are inflations of historical facts -- such as the 6-inch fish which suddenly grows to 18 inches.
“Still other stories are what psychologists call ‘confabulations,” said Dr. Reisinger. “These occur when the person has little actual recollections of the event. But, more serious and less innocent are accounts that overstate or deliberately distort the facts.”
According to Dr. Reisinger, the situation changes dramatically when the speaker has a position of trust, such as judges, police, clergy or news reporters.
“The higher standard here demands that the communications be accurate,” he said. “Unfortunately, some people betray this trust by a personal belief that a little embellishment helps people understand the situation a bit better. This particular explanation does not excuse such misrepresentations---they only compel us to take much of what we are told ‘with a grain of salt.’ ”
The newsman announced last weekend that he would step down from anchoring for an indefinite period of time. Only time will tell if his reputation is too damaged to return to the anchor desk.