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USA Today‘s Rem Rieder, who called the Brian Williams affair an “unmitigated disaster,” says NBC News has landed in “an ugly situation in which it seems its executives allowed star foreign correspondent Richard Engel to go on the air with a story they had reason to believe was wrong.”
Engel, who was kidnapped with members of his NBC News crew in Syria in 2012, revised his account of the kidnapping in a story posted Wednesday evening. Following questions raised by The New York Times, Engel reports he was not, in fact, kidnapped by individuals tied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but by those tied to the Syrian Free Army, which opposes the regime.
Further, The Times‘ reporting indicates NBC News executives may have had reason to doubt that the kidnapping was carried out by pro-government forces at the time of Engel’s release. Rieder says that’s troubling:
That means — if the Times’ account is true, and there seems no reason to doubt it — that NBC allowed Engel to go on the air and repeatedly assert that the forces of Assad had done the deed, when its execs knew full well that didn’t seem to be the case.
That’s simply inexcusable.
What’s worse, the network so far is stonewalling. Yes, Engel came forward and commendably set the record straight. Yet NBC won’t deal with what it knew, when it knew it and why it acted like it did. The Times reports that NBC said it would have nothing to say beyond Engel’s post.