Maureen Dowd writes today that “NBC executives were warned a year ago that Brian Williams was constantly inflating his biography.” Williams has stepped down, at least temporarily, from his anchor position at NBC News. An investigation by NBC is underway. But Lawrence Patihis, a graduate student in psychology at UC-Irvine, doesn’t need to wait for the results. Patihis told the New Republic that he found Williams’ explanation, that is was a genuine memory error, “credible.”
At last, we have discovered the kind of person who false-memory researchers find credible: someone charged with lying, who claims to have been confused, but whose mistake just happens to have inflated their credentials in some way. The real news will be the day when Patihis and his advisor, Elizabeth Loftus, find the testimony of a victim of sexual assault to be “credible.”
ADDENDUM (I): A blog entry by James Taranto (“Brian Salad Surgery: Science, Journalism, and ‘Moral Authority'”) points out that false-memory research sheds no light on stolen valor and other forms of self-aggrandizement.
ADDENDUM (II): Faye Flam, writing in Forbes: We can accept the experimental evidence that memory is fragmented and subject to distortion, but nevertheless, we realize that some of us manage to go through life without being insufferable blowhards.
ADDENDUM (III): Mike Daisey in Slate: “Misremembered”? Come on, man. People want to be treated with respect—they don’t buy that the life-threatening episode event he described was a product of mistaken remembering.
ADDENDUM (IV): From CNN: NBC finds at least 10 Brian Williams embellishments. One wonders whether Pamela Freyd will label all of those embellishments as “memory mistakes,” the term she used in this post.