United States newsman backtracks on story about coming under fire in Iraq

February 6, 2015 2:54 am
NBC anchor Brian Williams conceded yesterday that a story he had
told repeatedly about being under fire while covering the invasion of
in 2003 was false.
Williams said he was not aboard a
helicopter that was hit by enemy fire and forced down more than a decade
ago – a story he retold as recently as last week during a televised
tribute to a retired soldier during a New York Rangers hockey game.
Instead, Williams told the military newspaper Stars & Stripes in a
story published yesterday that he “misremembered” the story and was
sorry for repeating it.

 Brian Williams. Photo / AP

Williams’ admission came after Stars
& Stripes contacted crew members of the Chinook helicopter that the
anchorman had said he was in when it was hit by two rockets and
small-arms fire. They said that Williams was not aboard and that he
arrived on another, undamaged helicopter an hour after the crippled
Chinook had landed.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams told the newspaper.

“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
During
the hockey broadcast last weekend, Stars & Stripes said Williams
told viewers: “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen
years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were
travelling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG. Our travelling
NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armour
mechanised platoon from the US Army 3rd Infantry.”
Williams’
claim of surviving an air attack bothered several soldiers familiar with
air operations at the time, including Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Miller,
who was the flight engineer on the helicopter that carried the NBC News
crew. “No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” he
told the newspaper.
The soldier’s complaints prompted Williams to apologise.
“I
spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy,” Williams wrote in
an apology to the soldiers that was posted on the NBC Nightly News
Facebook page. “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.”
He added, “Because I have no desire
to fictionalise my experience [we all saw it happened the first time]
and no need to dramatise 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
apologise.”
He continued, “Nobody’s trying to steal anyone’s
valour. Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist
covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty.”
Lance
Reynolds, who was the flight engineer on the Chinook that was hit, said
“It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to
participate in and didn’t deserve to participate in.”

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