Brian Williams made no mention of his false Iraq helicopter story on Thursday night’s broadcast. He apologized a day earlier during the “NBC Nightly News” broadcast, but that apology — in which he said, “I made a mistake” — has only led to more controversy for the venerable newscaster.
After telling the story for more than a decade of being in a helicopter that had been forced down by a rocket propelled grenade in Iraq, Williams admitted that the story wasn’t true. This was in response to a report in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes asserting that Williams was not shot down, but rather was on a helicopter behind the one that was brought down by an RPG.
On Wednesday, Williams changed his story to say that he was on a different helicopter, behind the one that sustained fire. He claimed to have “conflated” the two.
Williams’ claim that because of the “fog of war” he confused exactly what happened, didn’t hold up against a wave of military veterans and pundits on television who took aim at the newscaster throughout the day Thursday. His credibility was hurt in the public as well, with the hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers trending on Twitter.
As recently as last week, Williams was still recalling the false story on “NBC Nightly News,” while he shared it with David Letterman on the “Late Show” as recently as 2013.
Pilots came forward on Thursday in the media with differing accounts of what happened that day, though. Christopher Simeone and Allan Kelly, who said they were two of the pilots of Williams’ helicopter, said in an interview that their convoy did not come under fire. And Joe Summerlin, who was on the helicopter that was forced down, said in an interview that Williams’ helicopter was part of a different mission and at least a half hour behind theirs.
Rich Krell told CNN that he had piloted Williams and that their helicopter had come under fire, though not from an RPG. He said that Williams was part of the same formation as the struck helicopter, and that the time discrepancy was because Williams’ helicopter took a detour to drop off their payload before regrouping with the other two helicopters.
Throughout the debacle, NBC has remained silent, telling CNN that it stands by Williams’ apology on Thursday, and Williams did not address the growing discussion surrounding the incident on Thursday night’s broadcast. It was business as usual at “NBC Nightly News,” with Williams reporting on the day’s events.