While Williams acknowledged that the Rose Garden ceremony orchestrated by President Barack Obama's administration to commemorate Bergdahl's return was inappropriate, he said the stream of heavy criticism targeting Bergdahl's release and the circumstances surrounding his 2009 departure from a U.S. military base in Afghanistan is out of line.
"I think it's a matter of us as Americans not getting lost in the, I think, troubling optics of the White House ceremony," Williams said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. "The clear principle is we don't leave soldiers behind. And at the moment, I think what's necessary here, I'm reminded this Sunday morning of the story of the prodigal son. That you don't make judgments as you have the opportunity to bring that child back."
"America should be loving this child at this moment," Williams continued, growing visibly emotional. "Obviously we don't know why he left. We think he's a troubled person. We think he may have lost a sense of America's mission. All true. But the idea is we don't leave people in the enemy's hands. The enemy saw him as an American soldier. That young man suffered. He was caged, Chris. His parents suffered. And yet people want to argue about the father's beard. They want to say they shouldn't have a parade. Let the military decide. The military's in the best position, not us sitting here on this panel, and not all the political people on the Republican side who have flip-flopped -- flip-flopped, Chris, in the most craven way. Unbelievable."
Bergdahl's case has long been emotionally charged within the U.S. military, with many believing he deserted his post. Several soldiers from his unit recently also spoke out against him on television. Bergdahl's family has been receiving death threats during a week of intense media criticism, which has focused not only on Bergdahl, but also on his father. Many of the most aggressive statements have been broadcast on Fox, although MSNBC and CNN have also featured similar material. The FBI is investigating the death threats against Bergdahl's family.
After previously advocating for Bergdahl's release, some Republican senators have aggressively attacked the exchange of five Taliban members for his return. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) had urged the administration to "do all it can" to ensure Bergdahl's safe return, only to say that a prisoner swap would embolden terrorists. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been taken to task for prior comments that he would support a prisoner exchange deal to ensure Bergdahl's return home, only to attack the Obama deal after it was orchestrated.