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Body Language and Deception Read of Brian Williams’
Iraq War Story on David Letterman
Brian Williams Makes Mistakes in His Apology Statement

By Body Language Expert Patti Wood

What are the “tells” that Brian Williams’ lies in part of his Iraq War Story. I detail how to read his deception then I tell you what he did wrong in his apology statement.  There is also a link below to the article I did for the IBT Pulse on the story. If you want to look at the video, as I analyze it, here is the link to the video of Brian Williams’ Iraq War Story on David Letterman. 

First Williams says, “Two of the helicopters were hit including the one I was in.” This is very odd phrasing. He is stating what happened to his chopper last. If you were describing say, a car accident you would not say, “Two of the cars were in the accident, including the car I was in.” Typically, if you experienced a terrifying accident you would recall it in your limbic brain and the focus in the first part of the sentence would be on you. You would lead with what happened to you. If you are lying you are more likely to lead with the truth and hide the lie at the end of the sentence. I will say that this is a war story and sometimes war storytellers remove themselves from the first place in the story and Brian is a journalist and he is trained to remove himself from the story. Yet having stated those exceptions to sharing an incident like this, it is still really odd.

Now notice his body language as he speaks, “Two of the helicopters were hit including the one I was in.” His body stays very still, his outside hand is in a guarded wall position on the outside of his leg, his left leg is folded over his right away from Letterman and his left arm is out around the back of the chair and his hand is loosely gripping the chair arm.  He is guarding himself a bit. Perhaps not unusual if you are going to tell a story of a scare event, but this guarding is juxtaposed with him having a very expanded upper chest. That is a braggart’s position. So he is showing a mixture of the braggart and guarded positions.

His body stays very still. With the caveats stated above, I know that some “warriors” want to remain distant and or cavalier about their story. It still seems odd that he is describing being hit without his body coming downwards or going backwards as he remembers the sensation of being hit. His head does come down on the word “hit” but the head is under more conscious control and that means he could purposefully, as a broadcaster, easily emphasize that word with his head.

What I would have liked to have seen is more subconscious body movement. I know time has passed since the event, and he was not injured, but typically I should see a hint of that movement as he “recalls” the incident. Instead he is planted. This does not mean he is lying. It is merely curious and interesting.

The vocal emphasis on hit actually matches Brian Williams’ natural vocal emphasis as he tells a news story. He typically, in his baseline of normal news storytelling, hits the verb or power word.


Body Language and Deception Analysis of Brain Williams’
Apology Statement Letterman

Apology Video

Williams certainly wanted to get through the apology as quickly as possible. Perhaps, because this time, he was hit by real “ground fire’ criticism from the public and the media. Time is a nonverbal communicator. Rushing through the apology shows his desire to distance himself from his guilt and get on with things rather than sincere remorse.

"I said I was in the aircraft that was hit… I was instead…” Newscasters often use the words, “rather” and “instead” when they have made a word or phrasing blunder in their news story. This was more than a misspoken word. This was a lie. If an actor had lied we would think, bad boy. This is however a news correspondent whose words we rely on for the truth of what is going on in the world.

He then goes on to give the “excuse” that the story was, “a bungled attempt to thank one special veteran…” I watched him tell the story on Letterman 6 times, and it was not a story of thanks to one special veteran. A content analysis of it instead categorizes it as a comic, “I had a bad night in Vegas” variety story. He does mention that one soldier was hit in the ear when he told the story on Letterman and he touches his ear after he says that showing he distances himself from that soldier and his injury and did not feel the pain that soldier had in that moment. Yes, he is a journalist and he is trained to distance himself, but if someone was being projected as the hero of the story it was him. Watch as he tells it how Letterman leans forward and goes, “Wow.”

As he says, “I hope they know they have my greatest respect and also now my apology” watch how his head goes down and his eyes close and his voice goes unusually soft and faint as he says the word, “apology.” I would like to say this is normal shamed behavior. But, I will say, it shows embarrassment. I would have liked to have seen him look in the camera and say, “I messed up and I am truly sorry.” He should have said, “What I did was to claim pain and hardship that was not mine to claim.”  Instead his pride overrides what should have been true humbleness. Brian Williams rushes through the content with body language that does not show he is truly contrite.

The link to the ibtimes article I did  
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at Also check out Patti's

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