NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted today that he wasn’t aboard a helicopter that was shot down during the 2003 Iraq invasion, attributing his claim to misremembering the events, according to Stars and Stripes.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
Williams apologized after crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook, which was hit by hit by two rockets and small arms fire, told Stars and Stripes that he wasn’t near any of the aircraft that were shot at, but that he arrived about an hour later.
That apparently wasn’t a dramatic enough arrival for Williams, who for some reason decided to create a more compelling storyline, which he has repeated several times since 2013 and as recently as last Friday.
“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. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
The flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, said that they weren’t hit, though the helicopter was damaged when it skidded off the runway.
After being caught in a lie, Williams issued a lengthy apology on Facebook:
To Joseph, Lance, Jonathan, Pate, Michael and all those who have posted: You are absolutely right and I was wrong. 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. 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. 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. Later in the invasion when Gen. Downing and I reached 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.
Williams issued the following apology on tonight’s broadcast of the Nightly News:
“On this broadcast last week in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others following a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago. It didn’t take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in the desert.
“I want to apologize: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft.. we all landed and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the 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.”
While Williams deserves to be suspended or fired for perpetuating a lie it’s unlikely NBC News will take any action due to his stature at the network.