Brian Williams Admits He Made Up Story About Helicopter Being Shot Down In Iraq
Brian Williams has admitted that he was not on a helicopter forced down by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003, despite NBC News and Williams both repeatedly making the claim for years. The news anchor was forced to recant his story after crew members of one of the Chinook helicopters that did get hit by rockets and small arms fire on March 24, 2003, took issue with Williams after he repeated his false claim during a military tribute at last Friday’s New York Rangers hockey game.
Williams actually told the story again during an “NBC Nightly News” segment about the Rangers game tribute (see video below). But according to members of the 159th Aviation Regiment, on the day in question in 2003, Williams arrived to the area about an hour after three Chinooks were forced to make emergency landings. A new report indicates that Williams’ helicopter took no fire, and landed next to the damaged vehicle due to a nearing sandstorm.
On Wednesday, Williams said, “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.” He then wrote a longer apology, posted on the U.S. armed forces news site Stars and Stripes:
“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.
I certainly remember the armored mech platoon, meeting Capt. Eric Nye and of course Tim Terpak. Shortly after they arrived, so did the Orange Crush sandstorm, making virtually all outdoor functions impossible. I honestly don’t remember which of the three choppers Gen. Downing and I slept in, but we spent two nights on the stowable web bench seats in one of the three birds.
Later in the invasion when Gen. Downing and I reached Baghdad, I remember searching the parade grounds for Tim’s Bradley to no avail. My attempt to pay tribute to CSM Terpak was to honor his 23+ years in service to our nation, and it had been 12 years since I saw him.
The ultimate irony is: In writing up the synopsis of the 2 nights and 3 days I spent with him in the desert, I managed to switch aircraft. Nobody’s trying to steal anyone’s valor. Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty. This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere — those who have served while I did not.”
It appears that the false version of events began with a March 26, 2003 NBC News story called, “Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC’s Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire.” Various versions of the story then appeared for nearly a dozen years. What do you think of Williams’ admission and apology?