Williams yesterday scrapped a long-scheduled appearance on Late Show With David Letterman set for Thursday in the wake of an investigation into his inflated claims about taking enemy fire while in a helicopter in Iraq. Some industry navel gazers say he’s missed a great opportunity by canceling. But Williams’ loss, and Letterman’s, is Stars and Stripes‘ gain.
“The reason we decided to publish it now is because Williams backed out of this appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman,” Travis Tritten, who did the interview, explained this afternoon to CNN. “We felt there was a lot of interest out there to hear him, in his own words, really address these questions and hear his response, unfiltered — so everybody can listen for themselves and judge.
“We are five days [later], and Williams has not come forward and answered questions,” Tritten added. “He has made statements on his own, but he hasn’t sat and answered questions about it.”
In the interview, Tritten is heard telling Williams he had “multiple guys” telling him they remember immediately after the incident that Williams and NBC were reporting he was on the aircraft that was hit.
Williams’ response, in full:
“No, I think I correctly reported as I did in my blog in ’08 that I was on the aircraft behind the one that was hit. It was not … Because I knew we had all come under fire, I guess I had assumed that all of the airframes took some damage because we all went down. Also, remember, adding to the fear of the moment was the fact that we unhooked, our load master let loose a huge, our cargo, so you go through this over-torque where you rise in the air before you settle, despite what was some dandy piloting by the crews of all three aircraft. It was like landing on the surface of the moon. And I’m going to have a far different recollection than the professionals. These are the guys, and I think maybe you know more than I do — Was it a mixture of Big Windy [Company] out of Germany and Air National Guard from the States? Because that is what I recall.”
“Obviously those are inaccurate statements,” Tritten told CNN. “And, if you listen to the tape, I did follow up with him and pressed him on this point of whether he was actually following … and that sources I had said he was not following the aircraft that was hit [and] was actually on another route that was an hour behind this other route. And he told me this was the first he heard of that.
“Of course, after we spoke, he went on Nightly News and made his apology, saying he was following the aircraft that was hit,” Tritten snarked.
To date, no one has come forward with video or transcript of an NBC News report immediately following the incident in which it was reported Williams was on the vehicle that was hit.
Tritten acknowledged that the “small group of guys” with whom he spoke and who were involved with the incident have accepted Williams’ apology. But he forecast the release of Stars and Stripes‘ full interview with Williams is “probably going to create more upset among the wider veteran” population. “Frankly, a lot of them want to see him gone,” he told CNN. He did not explain what has led him to that conclusion — then again, he wasn’t asked.