Remember when NBC News anchor Brian Williams was in a helicopter that took enemy fire and was forced down during the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Neither does he because it never happened. He doubtless remembers pretending aloud that he endured that terrifying-sounding ordeal, a whopper that he has been repeating for more than a decade.
That was until yesterday when the 55-year-old host of NBC Nightly News recanted the account that he was traveling in a Chinook helicopter that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire. Said Williams on last night’s broadcast:
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.
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.
OK, so he lied because it made for a great story (or something). That doesn’t excuse it, but at least he’s willing to own up to the truth, right? Well, not entirely. He also said in his “mea culpa”:
I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.
So he wasn’t lying? He just confused a chopper that was hit with one he was riding in that was not?
Whether Williams has been dogged by a guilty conscience is anybody’s guess, but if he has been that isn’t why he suddenly came clean. The reason is that the flight engineer on the aircraft he was on, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, told Stars and Stripes just yesterday that their helicopter “never came under direct enemy fire.”
Mike O’Keeffe, who was a door gunner on the helicopter that was hit, told Stars and Stripes that he has been bothered by Williams’s lie since it was first published. “Over the years it faded,” O’Keeffe said, adding, “I can’t believe he is still telling this false narrative.”
There is no word on whether the network will take disciplinary action against Williams, who has been the managing editor and anchor of NBC Nightly News since 2004.
In the meantime, photoshoppers and pranksters have been having a field day on social media, tweeting under the hashtags
#BrianWilliamsMisremembers and #BrianWilliamsWarStories:
— Яob (@robx_d) February 5, 2015
— neontaster (@neontaster) February 5, 2015
— Greg Dutra (@DutraWeather) February 5, 2015