from The Las Vegas Review-Journal

Brian Williams isn’t the first big name to ‘misremember’ a story


Call it a false memory. A trick of the mind. Or a “misremembrance.”

Television anchor Brian Williams isn’t the first person to be embarrassed by claiming a remembrance that, well, never really happened.

Recent history shows how several famous figures suffered what one expert labels a false “flashbulb” memory.


Astrophysicist and television host Neil deGrasse Tyson, a protege of the late Carl Sagan, claimed he heard President George W. Bush make a remark intended to highlight divisions between Judeo-Christian Americans and fundamentalist Muslims.

Tyson’s assertion is still published on the webpage of the Hayden Planetarium, which he runs.

“After the 9/11 attacks, when President George W. Bush, in a speech aimed at distinguishing the U.S. from the Muslim fundamentalists, said, ‘Our God is the God who named the stars.’ The problem is two-thirds of all the stars that have names, have Arabic names. I don’t think he knew this. This would confound the point that he was making,” Tyson said in a 2008 speech.


Even President Bush suffered a false memory of what he saw on television the day of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Bush recalled more than once how he saw the first plane hit the north of the World Trade Center before he entered a classroom in Florida, where his reaction to the devastating attacks was forever captured on television cameras.

“In reality, he had been told that a plane had hit the building, but had not seen it — there was no live footage of the plane hitting the tower,” the two professors wrote.


In her own campaign for the U.S. presidency in 2008, Hillary Clinton stated she evaded sniper fire when visiting Bosnia as first lady in 1996.

While seeking votes, she provided a dramatic recollection of the event, which occurred on March 25, 1996.

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base,” said Clinton, a Democrat.

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