Brian Williams, long-time anchor of NBC Nightly News, recanted on Wednesday a 12-year-old story that he was aboard a helicopter that was shot down by enemy fire during the Iraq War invasion in 2003.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams told Stars and Stripes. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
On Friday, Williams had repeated the claim at a NBC-led public tribute to a retired soldier at the New York Rangers hockey game.
“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,” Williams said on the late January broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
Eventually, members of the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook came forward to challenge the anchor’s claim. Speaking with Stars and Stripes, they said Williams arrived at the scene an hour later on another helicopter that “took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert.”
On Facebook, Williams also posted an apology to crew members, blaming the incident on the “fog of memory.”
On Wednesday’s broadcast, he issued an apology and said he “bungled” an attempt to thank a veteran last week.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said on-air. “It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in the desert.”
“I hope they know they have my greatest respect and now, my apology,” he said.
Video by Michael Rusch/Buzzfeed