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First a lie, then a botched apology

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

In February, scandal rocked the world of Brian Williams, a high-profile news anchor. He was caught in a lie, botched an apology and ultimately received a six-month unpaid suspension.

It started innocently. During a New York Rangers game, Williams paid tribute to a retiring sergeant who he claimed had protected him in Iraq when the helicopter they were traveling in was hit by enemy fire.

Williams apparently had told a similar story before, but this time he was called on it. Crew members aboard the helicopter that was actu­­ally attacked by two rockets and other small arms claimed that Williams was not in the chopper. In fact, he showed up an hour later.

Williams recanted his story and apologized. However, his apology hasn’t been well-received. He made statements such as “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago” and “… the fog of memory over 12 years made me conflate the two ...”

In short, he blamed his memory.

Is this a big deal? It depends on who you ask. For some, Williams told a huge lie when his job is to tell the truth. For others, he simply embellished to make himself more interesting. And some people accept that he had a case of the “forget’ems.”

The lesson: You can’t overlook the lies. Since this news broke, many reporters are digging into Williams’ past and more lies appear to be surfacing. If you get caught in a lie—even the “innocent” white lies—you lose credibility and people’s trust. Williams’ attempts to seem more exciting than he actually is may have ruined his career and made him our Worst Communicator of the Month.

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