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Brian Williams Blamed Possible Brain Tumor for Inaccurate Helicopter Story: Vanity Fair Report

Brian Williams
Brian Williams blamed a possible brain tumor for his now-infamous helicopter story

Just when Brian Williams' fall from grace couldn't seem to get any worse, new details have emerged about the anchor's now-infamous inaccurate helicopter story and just how the aftermath was handled. 

Vanity Fair published a massive expose on the subject this week, diving into the structure of NBC's news division, the story that forced Williams, 55, to issue an on-air public apology earlier this year, and what he blames for the confusion. The story involved a 2003 incident in Iraq, in which Williams has long maintained that the helicopter that he was aboard was hit with fire, when in fact his aircraft was not under attack. 

In his apology, which was issued in February, Williams said that he "made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago," adding, "I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another."

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According to NBC insiders who spoke to Vanity Fair, Williams would not take full responsibility for the mistake and looked for something to blame. 

"He couldn't say the words 'I lied,'" a source told the magazine. "We could not force his mouth to form the words 'I lied.' He couldn't explain what had happened."

"[He said,] 'Did something happen to [my] head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head?'" the source added of Williams. "He just didn't know. We just didn't know. We had no clear sense what had happened. We got the best [apology] we could get."

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Amongst stories of tension between Williams and veteran anchor Tom Brokaw and corporate issues with NBC's parent company Comcast, the VF piece paints Williams as a man whose true calling was not investigative reporting or hard news, and whose storytelling abilities often veer toward the dramatic.

One such story involved a time that Williams and Brokaw were at the Berlin Wall together in the late 1980s, and Williams has since stretched his account of just what happened at the iconic site. 

"This is the perfect example of what Brian does," the NBC insider told VF of Williams' Berlin Wall story. "He will say, and I've heard this a hundred times, 'When Tom and I were at the Berlin Wall…' Okay, so when he tells that story, he kind of implies that when the wall fell he was there with Tom. But he wasn't. He was there the next day. It wasn't malicious — It's just Brian being Brian."

Currently on a six-month suspension from NBC, Williams' future with the network remains unclear. 

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