Brian Williams faces a six-month suspension for something that everyone does, embellish stories. Granted, his exaggerations are a bit extreme – surviving a helicopter crash in Iraq, being at the Berlin Wall when it fell, meeting the Pope – but experts say even those extremes are more normal than most people think, especially for journalists and politicians.
Bob Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, told the AP, “any human being who tells you they have never embellished their own life story is probably lying.”
“My story of how hard it was to get home in the snow on Monday is a lot better on Wednesday. There are all kinds of new things, like abominable snowmen.”
Brian Williams aside, Thompson added that embellishment is particularly common in the political sphere.
In the 2008 election, Hillary Rodham Clinton once said she landed in Bosnia under heavy sniper fire in 1996, according to the Telegraph. Like with the Brian Williams story, eye-witnesses and records from Clinton’s landing showed there the gun-fire wasn’t there. Later, she conceded that she misspoke, blaming it on tiredness.
Likewise, Joe Biden made up a story about Al Qaeda forcing his helicopter to make a thrilling emergency landing. Turns out it was a snowstorm causing an early landing.
Back in Brian Williams’ journalistic world, exaggeration has become far more accepted. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Fox News recently made David Cameron spit out his porridge when an expert speaker claimed Birmingham in the U.K. was entirely Muslim and non-Muslim people couldn’t enter the town.
Turned out only about 28 percent of the population is Muslim, and Britons come and go as they please.
Professor Thompson claimed Williams’ style of making stories more dramatic has deep historical roots.
“There’s an irresistible temptation to improve upon a story and make it more dramatic that dates back to the telling of “The Iliad,” one of the first stories in Western civilization.”
Stretching the truth for career purposes is also a normal phenomenon from embellishing resumes to telling tall-tales at cocktail parties. Brian Williams’ claims may have evolved over the years into part of his professional narrative.
Professor Matthew Randall of Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania explained, “Typically if a half-truth worked well once, the professional will continue to leverage it and bake it into their professional narrative. Hence, Williams’ fib had become part of his career.”
For the experts, like psychology professor Harold Takooshian, Brian Williams is simply human, and perhaps his punishment a little too severe.
“So the bottom line is that Brian Williams is 100 percent normal: It seems to me he was just exaggerating and he started believing what he said. It’s just surprising he wasn’t challenged earlier.”
It will take the American public quite some time to be so forgiving. According to the New York Times, Brian Williams went from the 23rd most trusted person in America to number 835th, about the same as Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty. Meaning Williams has a tall ladder to climb.
[Image Credit: Getty]