By JOHN T. WARD
Was news anchor Brian Williams robbed at gunpoint while selling Christmas trees in Red Bank in the late 1970s, as he has repeatedly claimed – including once before a packed house at the Count Basie Theatre?
That question, and some speculation by local old-timers, threw fuel on an already-raging firestorm about the truthfulness of the NBC News helmsman and former Middletown resident, who was later suspended by the network earlier this month for misrepresenting facts about an incident in Iraq.
Brian Donohue, an nj.com writer and commentator, did some legwork on the Red Bank piece of the story. And while he and his colleagues failed to unearth any specific evidence supporting Williams’ claim, he found plenty to refute the rose-colored reminiscences of locals who said it could not have happened because stuff like that just didn’t happen in Red Bank in the 1970s.
In a piece published Friday morning, Donohue, himself a Red Bank resident, writes that…
…in the 1970’s, there were enough robberies to keep the police in this town of 12,000 people plenty busy.
In 1973, Williams’ freshman year at nearby Mater Dei high school, there were 29 robberies in Red Bank, 15 of them at gunpoint, according to statistics from the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division. In 1974, 16 of the 45 robberies were at gunpoint.
The statistics are similar for the next few years of Williams’ high school career, the time
period he says he worked selling Christmas trees on Front Street, and well into the time he spent down the road at Brookdale Community College.
Donohue also found a report of a man shot in the face with a .38-caliber pistol – the same caliber Williams claimed his robber used – right at the start of Christmas-tree selling season in 1977, when Williams was a freshman at Brookdale Community College.
Read the full story here.