I keep running across people who call what Brian Williams did a "mistake", because obviously, we can forgive anyone for making a mistake. I mean, everybody makes mistakes, right? Except that Williams didn't "mistakenly" describe a death defying helicopter ride he never took. He lied about it. Repeatedly. For over a decade.
I've taken many flights in commercial aircraft, and though I can't remember the details of most of them, one flight I do. The plane I was on got hit by lightning in mid air. It was like being inside a big, old fashioned flashbulb. A flash and a pop and then a little retina afterimage before things when back to normal.
The plane wasn't seriously damaged, but I believe it affected the avionics. The plane seemed to yaw a bit more than usual, so combined with some wind shear at our destination airport, we were diverted to a safer landing spot.
Now I don't remember reading about it and placing myself in the plane, I don't remember someone telling me about it and it was such a nifty story I started telling it as if I was there, I was there. It was unusual enough that though I'd have to look up which airport was my original destination and which airport we were diverted to (along with a long party bus trip to our original destination), but I remember being in that aircraft when it was hit.
If I suddenly changed that story to taking damage from an air to air missile, that would not be a "mistake", it would be a lie. You can play semantic games and say it would be a 'mistake' for me to lie, but the mistake is secondary. Dishonesty is the primary thing. It goes to character. The fact is that Williams showed this appalling lack of character for over a decade, just because he could get away with it.
I may make a mistake in my checkbook, but it's a one time thing. I might make a different mistake, but I won't repeat the same mistake time and time again, keep the same erroneous balance year after year. I'll correct it with my next statement and try awfully hard not to repeat it. And then forget about it. Mistakes are momentary lapses in judgement, not a lifestyle.
Brian Williams is the Baron von Munchausen of the Nightly News. His wounds are largely self inflicted. Feel sorry for him or not. BW will be an obscure question on trivial Pursuit before he ever regains a tenth of the credibility he's lost.