Anchor Brian Williams' statements about Katrina under scrutiny

Anchor Brian Williams' statements about Katrina under scrutiny

The firestorm continues for NBC anchor Brian Williams. Now questions are being raised over statements he made about his time in New Orleans covering the arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

"My goal was to get to the Superdome because that was being called the shelter of last resort in New Orleans...we watched, all of us watched as one man committed suicide," Williams said.

This week, Williams took to the airwaves with an apology for getting the facts wrong about some of his time covering the conflict in the Middle East.

"I want to apologize," he said during a newscast. "I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed after the ground fire incident."

"It seemed to be a heartfelt apology. You can't be right all the time, you do make mistakes, and when you do you need to face up to them," said Loyola journalism instructor Michael Giusti, who has also worked as professional journalist.

Now there is scrutiny of some of Williams' comments related to what he experienced during Katrina.

"When you look out of your hotel room in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Indonesia and swear to yourself that you would never see in your country, I beat that storm," Williams said in a post-Katrina interview.

And in an interview with the man he succeeded in the anchor chair, Tom Brokaw, Williams said, "I accidentally ingested some of the flood waters. I became very sick with dysentery. Our hotel was overrun with gangs. I was rescued in the stairwell of a five-star hotel in New Orleans by a young police officer."

Williams was staying at the Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street, which backs up to the edge of the French Quarter. By most accounts, the French Quarter remained mostly dry when the levees failed. So the question becomes: Could a body realistically have floated on a French Quarter street?

"The portions of the French Quarter between Bourbon Street and, you know, the river - I think that that area pretty much stayed dry," said former NOPD Officer Donovan Livaccari who was working on the force during Katrina and now speaks for the Fraternal Order of Police.

However, he remembers water on Canal Street.

"There certainly was water on Canal Street at some level. I recall the water over the first couple of days kind of creeping up toward the river. I think that there was more water like down towards Claiborne Avenue, Rampart, Basin Street," Livaccari said.

A former NOPD captain whose name we are not using because of his current employment,was in charge of search-and-rescue missions and the recovery of human remains after Katrina. "There were no bodies floating in the French Quarter," he said. "There was no water in the French Quarter."

"He needs to be as precise as he's able. You know, it may be a case of him calling the Canal Street the French Quarter, and we all know the difference here, but coming down from New York he doesn't realize where the lines of demarcation are. It may be something as simple as that," Giusti said.

"I personally didn't witness any of that, but I know that I heard some fairly gruesome stories. You know - again, it's difficult to separate what's fact from fiction," Livaccari said.

And Guisti fears that questions about Brian Williams' credibility could result in skepticism of all journalists.

"The public perception of journalism is pretty low," he said. "There's low public trust in anything that's going to make us look worse, is bad for the industry."

The NOPD was contacted for corroboration of Williams' statement that he had to be rescued from a stairwell, but so far there has been no response from the department.

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