Willams has repeated the story dozens, if not hundreds of times about how the Chinook helicopter he was riding in took a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) in 2003 and was forced to land.
It’s the kind of derring-do that won him praise for his courage and commitment to journalism and put him head and shoulders in esteem above other news anchors.
But military newspaper Stars & Stripes, published an interview with the chopper’s crew, who said he was nowhere near the fight, forcing Williams to issue a humiliating apology and admit the story was not true.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
The news anchor repeated the story as late as Friday (Feb. 30) during a tribute to retired soldier Tim Terpak, who was present in the rescue team that came to the aid of Williams and others. The presentation took place at a New York Rangers hockey game.
“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. Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
Although Williams acknowledged that he was not on the downed helicopter, he still stretch the truth by claiming his helicopter was directly behind the whirlybird that was hit.
“I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp [at the back of the craft],” he wrote in an apology to the crew members.
In fact, the flight crew adamantly insists that Williams’ helicopter was nowhere near the flight of three helicopters that drew fire. His helicopter was about an hour behind. By the time it arrived, all of the action was over, they said.
Williams blamed his error on constantly viewing video “showing us inspecting the impact area” and “the fog of memory over 12 years.” Except he’s told the same story from the beginning and never deviated from it.
War correspondents are like anyone else; they tend to inflate the importance of their exploits. But this goes beyond that. Williams never was involved in the exploit to begin with. His story was a complete fabrication.
It shows a serious lack of judgment if not outright sociopathic behavior. It’s hard to see how those are the qualities a major news network wants in its star anchor.
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