US news anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday that a story he has often repeated on air about coming under fire in a helicopter in Iraq in 2003 during the US invation was not true.
Williams, who anchors "NBC Nightly News" and is one of the biggest US news media stars, said that he was not in the aircraft that fell prey to an attack, but arrived at the scene later in a different helicopter.
"I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago," Williams said on the 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."
On “NBC Nightly News” Wednesday evening, Williams read a 50-second statement apologizing for his characterization of the episode.
"It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert. I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. . . . This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not.”
As recently as Friday, Williams had repeated the story, recounting the series of events on television in a tribute to a retired soldier who helped provide ground security for the grounded aircraft and crew.
But crew members of the Chinook helicopter and Williams' aircraft told Stars and Stripes, a US publication that covers the armed forces, that the anchor had been nowhere near the fired upon helicopter or other Chinooks in its formation.
He instead arrived an hour later in a separate helicopter, which landed due to an oncoming sandstorm.
Lance Reynolds, the flight engineer on the helicopter that was hit, told Stars and Stripes "it was something personal for us that was kind of life-changing for me. I know how lucky I was to survive it."
"It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn't deserve to participate in."
Williams said the story was "a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by extension our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not."