Brian Williams told a story on the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” last week that had him on a helicopter that had been fired upon during the Iraq War. He apologized on-air tonight (see below), saying that he was not on that helicopter.
Williams said he made a mistake in recalling the incident that happened 12 years ago, and that he apologized for the error.
According to an exclusive story in Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces, “The admission came after crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor was nowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.
“ ‘I would not have chosen to make this mistake,’ Williams said [to Stars and Stripes]. ‘I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.’”
A report on the CNN website says Williams also made the false claim on an appearance on “Late Show with David Letterman” in 2013, when the NBC anchor said, “two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47.” An AK-47 is an assault rifle.
The Stars and Stripes story adds that three of the military personnel who know about the original incident “said they all recall NBC [back in 2003, when the incident happened] reporting that Williams was aboard the aircraft that was attacked, despite it being false. The NBC online archive shows the network broadcast a news story on March 26, 2003, with the headline, ‘Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC’s Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire.’
‘Williams disputed Wednesday claims the initial reports were inaccurate, saying he originally reported he was in another helicopter but later confused the events. In a 2008 NBC blog post with his byline, he wrote that the ‘Chinook helicopter flying in front of ours (from the 101st Airborne) took an RPG to the rear rotor.’
“[Mike O’Keeffe, who was a door gunner on the Chinook that had actually been fired upon and had sustained damaged] said the incident has bothered him since he and others first saw the original report after returning to Kuwait.
“ ‘Over the years it faded,’ he said, ‘and then to see it last week it was — I can’t believe he is still telling this false narrative.’”
Here is Williams’ on-air apology from earlier tonight, Wed. Jan 4, 2015: