The New Orleans Advocate reports that the locals are starting to question the dramatic tales of NBC anchor Brian Williams about seeing bodies floating in the French Quarter (which is on high ground), and his tale of being “very sick with dysentery,” which results in bloody diarrhea.
Last year, Williams claimed, “My week, two weeks there was not helped by the fact that I accidentally ingested some of the floodwater. 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. We are friends to this day. And uh, it just was uh, I look back at total agony.”
Dr. Brobson Lutz, a former city health director who manned an EMS trailer that was set up in the 900 block of Dumaine Street, a block from his house in the French Quarter, said he was a fan of Williams but dubious of his claims.
“We were never wet. It was never wet,” he remarked of the conditions in the city’s most historic neighborhood.
As for dysentery, “I saw a lot of people with cuts and bruises and such, but I don’t recall a single, solitary case of gastroenteritis during Katrina or in the whole month afterward,” Lutz said.
As for Williams saying he accidentally drank floodwaters, Lutz added, “I don’t know anybody that’s tried that to see, but my dogs drank it, and they didn’t have any problems.”
...Questions about Williams’ recollections of his experience during Katrina weave into a larger tapestry of erratic, and sometimes downright erroneous, journalism that emerged from the chaos of the storm and its aftermath.
Four weeks after the storm, The Times-Picayune published an article noting that many of the most shocking stories that had been reported by media outlets across the world — reports of widespread violence and babies being killed, raped or trampled — had no apparent basis in fact.
The newspaper relayed "A spokesman for NBC did not immediately respond Thursday to questions about those comments, the hotel to which Williams referred, whether Williams stands by the claims or whether the network is reviewing them."
He also recalled the danger of the moment in a 2007 interview on C-SPAN. “We had to have men with guns behind me one night because I was the only source of light downtown, was the lights that were illuminating the broadcast,” Williams said. “We were told not to drink our bottled water in front of people because we could get killed for it.”
This sounds like something Williams said on air in a prime-time special on August 28, 2006. I laughed out loud at the vision of Williams offering men with guns a case of Vienna sausage in exchange for his life:
We made a decision the French Quarter was no longer safe. Things were getting too dicey and we pulled out to the suburb of Metairie, Louisiana.
I'll be candid. We heard CNN pulled out, that had some influence on our decision. We had no weapons. We don't work that way. That has to separate us as journalist. But it wasn't safe. Cars were king. If you had transportation out of town to high ground, you might eat. You might get some water. So here we are driving through town in our rental cars. State troopers had to cover us by aiming at the men in the street just to tell them, `Don't think of doing a smash-and-grab and killing this guy for the car.'
Slim Jims were also precious:
For a while, we were all in the same boat, and this should be stressed. The media had no special incoming helicopter drops. We had the same problems with food and water supplies. But our network found a way to get supplies to us. I remember seeing a box of Slim Jims and thinking, `That's better than any restaurant meal right now. That's the greatest thing I've ever seen.' We were desperate for food and drink, but not like the people we were seeing in the streets.