by Brian Steinberg, Senior TV Reporter, Variety.com
The most-watched evening-news anchor on television today has acknowledged that he falsely claimed to have been on a helicopter that was shot down by enemy fire while on an NBC News reporting trip in Iraq in 2003.
In fact, Williams said in an interview with the military-focused outlet Stars & Stripes, he was on a different plane that was never under fire and that landed safely about an hour behind the one that had taken fire.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said in an interview with Stars & Stripes. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
And yet, as the newspaper determined, Williams has told the false story several times since making the 2003 trip.
He later addressed the issue Wednesday night on NBC News, admitting that he “bungled” an attempt to thank one veteran in particular.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events in 12 years ago, it did not take long to hear from the brave men and women and their crews,” he said, alluding to the Iraq veterans who repudiated his account.
“I hope they know they have my greatest respect and now, my apology,” he said.
A spokeswoman for NBC News did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.