Peter Williams suspended for exaggerating story about this one time he had friends over

Peter Williams says he’ll be using his six-month suspension to solidify in his memory that he is not Brian Williams.

Peter Williams says he’ll be using his six-month suspension to solidify in his memory that he is not Brian Williams.

Popular veteran broadcaster Peter Williams has been suspended from TVNZ for six months without pay, after it emerged that, in numerous interviews, he had exaggerated a story about one time he invited friends over to his house.

Williams has been accused of damaging the credibility of TVNZ and its “entire news team” by adding “fanciful details” to a “rather mundane story” that “never happened.”

Peters originally told the story to Woman’s Day magazine in 2003, when he remarked that “just last week” he’d had a few friends over for “a beer.”

The story did not go further than that, but in subsequent tellings over the years, Williams gradually added more and more details.

Many assumed that this was merely Williams becoming more open about the event with age, and it eventually culminated in the most detailed telling of the story to date, just two weeks ago on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme.

“Well, let’s see. It would’ve been, it would’ve been 12 years ago, actually,” Williams told host Rawdon Christie. “It was a Friday night, and well – I’ve told this story a few times, actually – I thought, why not have my friend John and maybe four of the boys around for some beers, maybe watch the footy?

“So it was a really good time. We got really into it, had a few laughs, jokes were told, you know, a little bit of karaoke. Oh how we laughed. Martin, good old Martin, he got a bit rowdy, upset the neighbours, you know, as happens sometimes.

“Oh, and then we went to Iraq.”

“Really?” asked Christie. “Iraq?”

“Yeah,” replied Williams. “We want to Iraq. Flying over the desert in these helicopters, and there I was, staring down the barrel of an RPG as our Chinook began taking fire.”

“My goodness,” said Christie. “It sounds like you’re lucky to be alive. What a Friday night that must’ve been.”

After the broadcast, Williams’ friend from the story, who wished only to be known as “John,” came forward to media and disputed that account of events.

“I’m not sure why Peter would tell that version of the story,” he said. “I was there, and I remember it quite vividly. There was no karaoke, there weren’t six of us; just me and him, actually. It was very quiet. Pretty awkward, really. We just watched the game and then I headed home.”

“We certainly didn’t go to Iraq,” he added.

TVNZ bosses were reportedly “furious” with Williams, and opened an investigation into the broadcaster, which found several other examples of him misleading the public, including a 2006 segue on One News in which he said he’d found a $10 note on the street outside the studio.

TVNZ found that he had come upon no such note.

Williams has offered a public apology for his story, saying that he was “horrified to learn that my memory had failed me, and that I incorrectly recalled the events of that evening.”

Williams said he had been watching “too much news,” and had inadvertently confused himself with American NBC anchor Brian Williams, who is currently facing criticism for falsely claiming he had come under rocket fire in Iraq in 2003.