NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said Wednesday he made a “mistake” when he lied about being on a helicopter that was hit and forced down by an RPG attack in Iraq during the 2003 invasion.
During Nightly News on Wednesday, Williams issued the apology. “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago. It did not take long to hear from the brave men and women in the air crews,” he said, adding that he was “in a following aircraft”–not the aircraft that was hit.
But the longtime anchor first issued an apology to Stars and Stripes, a military publication, about the gaffe.
“Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize,” he said.
Added the NBC anchor: “I certainly remember the armored mech platoon, meeting Capt. Eric Nye and of course Tim Terpak. Shortly after they arrived, so did the Orange Crush sandstorm, making virtually all outdoor functions impossible. I honestly don’t remember which of the three choppers Gen. Downing and I slept in, but we spent two nights on the stowable web bench seats in one of the three birds.
Williams was prompted to issue the apology after an Iraq War veteran, Lance Reynolds, said he was on board one of the helicopters and said Williams wasn’t there.
“Sorry dude,” he told Williams, “I don’t remember you being on my aircraft. I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.”
He continued: “Then I remember you guys taking back off in a different flight of Chinooks from another unit and heading to Kuwait to report your ‘war story’ to the Nightly News. The whole time we were still stuck in Iraq trying to repair the aircraft and pulling our own Security,” according to Mashable.
The admission of guilt from Williams harks back to former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, who left the broadcaster in 2005 after he got embroiled in controversy about a news report involving former President George W. Bush.
There’s been no word from NBC on if Williams will get fired or mete out another form of punishment.
In his statement, Williams then said after he and Gen. Downing made it to Baghdad, “I remember searching the parade grounds for Tim’s Bradley to no avail. My attempt to pay tribute to CSM Terpak was to honor his 23+ years in service to our nation, and it had been 12 years since I saw him.”
“The ultimate irony is: In writing up the synopsis of the 2 nights and 3 days I spent with him in the desert, I managed to switch aircraft. Nobody’s trying to steal anyone’s valor. Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty. This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not,” he said.