UPDATE, 4 PM: Regarding his 2003 coverage of the Iraq invasion, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said this evening that “on this broadcast last week, in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others after a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War invasion, I made a mistake in recalling the incidents of 12 years ago. I want to apologize.” Williams admitted earlier today online that his story was false.
Coming more than 23 minutes into the first feed of Wednesday’s broadcast of the flagship news program, Williams’ retraction and apology were in response to Iraq veterans’ insistence that he was not in a helicopter downed by enemy fire, but was in fact in one that followed an hour later. Williams admitted as much in an interview with the Armed Forces newspaper Stars And Stripes and on NBC News’ Facebook page. He did not address the fact that the network news show aired a piece on the supposed incident back in 2003, and that he has repeated the claim several times since, well before the latest one on Friday. In 2013, Williams went on CBS’ Late Show to commemorate the 10th anniversary of what we now know was a phony tale.”Two of our four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in,’ he told David Letterman about the incident — he even brought photos. Watch that video here, the chopper story starts around the 2:45 mark:
“I said I was traveling in an aircraft that as hit by RPG fire,” Williams said in today’s apology on NBC Nightly News. “I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed after the ground-fire incident and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraqi desert. This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by extension our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not. I hope they know they have my greatest respect and also now my apology.”
PREVIOUS, 2:54 PM: For the second time in less than a month, the NBC News anchor has had to apologize for an on-air mistake. And unlike the admission of an incorrect report involving suspects in the Paris attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo on the NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams on January 8, this one falls directly at the feet of Williams himself.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes today, Williams said that the story he’s been telling for years about being on a helicopter in Iraq forced down under fire in 2003 during the U.S. invasion is not true. “I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” the news anchor told the U.S. Armed Forces newspaper. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.” That case of mistaken enemy fire must have happened fast because way back on March 26, 2003, soon after the alleged incident and when Tom Brokaw was still the anchor, the NBC Nightly News had a segment about the incident and claimed then that Williams was riding in a chopper under fire.
“To Joseph, Lance, Jonathan, Pate, Michael and all those who have posted: You are absolutely right and I was wrong,” Williams also wrote on the NBC Nightly News Facebook page today, in response to comments calling him a “liar” and other similar terms over the claims. “In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp.”
“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 added.
Williams told the story on-air as recently as January 30, during a tribute segment for one of the soldiers, the now retired Tim Terpak, who provided security for the choppers over a decade ago. “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq, when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” said the Nightly News frontman on Friday over footage of him at a New York Rangers game with Terpak. The crew of the choppers that took fire refuted Williams’ claims. The journalist was actually on another helicopter about an hour behind the attack, crew members said.
Watch it here:
“This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not,” added Williams online today about last week’s tribute.