Brian Williams has been the lead anchor on NBC’s Nightly News for over a decade now, replacing Tom Brokaw.
But his credibility has been put into question after Williams confessed to fabricating an oft-repeated story that during a visit to Iraq in 2003 with US troops, his Chinook helicopter was shot down.
His repeat of this claim on Friday’s broadcast news “quickly prompted denials from soldiers who were present”, including soldiers who were on the aircraft at the time.
On the Friday broadcast, which quoted an earlier broadcast, Williams stated:
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.
However, not only was Williams not on the aircraft that was hit by an RPG, he was not even close to the aircraft that was hit by an RPG:
According to the crew members, Williams arrived about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing.
The story itself has changed multiple times since 2003, from originally stating the following:
Some men on the ground fired an RPG through the tail rotor of the chopper flying in front of ours.
To then stating that he was traveling in the aircraft that was shot at.
According to a Facebook message by Williams:
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.
It is unclear what prompted the esteemed anchor to make the mistake, and it begs the question — how could one misremember getting shot down in a helicopter or not?
The incident echoes the similar network evening news scandal by Dan Rather, who eventually lost his job as head anchor of CBS Evening News when he used fabricated documents for a story about then-President and candidate George W. Bush’s National Guard service.
NBC has not commented on the situation.