NBC anchor Brian Williams was forced to apologize after falsely claiming that a helicopter he was on was shot down during his coverage of the Iraq War. (RELATED: NBC’s Brian Williams: I Was Followed To Snowden Interview In Russia)
Williams has told the story several times throughout his tenure at NBC, but most recently repeated the story Friday during NBC’s coverage of a ceremony honoring a retired soldier. “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,” he said. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
But servicemen who met Williams that day remember a completely different story. They claim that Williams’ helicopter arrived an hour after a different Chinook helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. They confirm that NBC News’ helicopter was forced to land, but only because of an impending sandstorm.
Mike O’Keeffe, the door gunner on the downed helicopter, told military newspaper Stars and Stripes he remembered seeing Williams tell the false version of the story as far back in 2003. “Over the years it faded, and then to see it last week it was — I can’t believe he is still telling this false narrative.” (RELATED: New York Times Publishes MASSIVE Correction To Article Tying Anti-Vaxxers To Republicans)
One angry veteran took to the NBC Nightly News Facebook page to complain:
Sorry dude, 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. 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.
That veteran, Lance Reynolds, also told Stars and Stripes that he was offended Williams co-opted his story. “It was something personal for us that was kind of life-changing for me. I’ve know how lucky I was to survive it. It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn’t deserve to participate in.”
Eventually, Williams was forced to apologize on said Facebook page.
“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…”
[h/t Stars and Stripes]