NBC News anchor Brian Williams conceded Wednesday that a story he told repeatedly about being under fire while covering the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was false.
Williams said he was not aboard a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire and forced down more than a decade ago, a story he retold as recently as last week during a televised tribute to a retired soldier during a New York Rangers hockey game.
Instead, Williams told the military newspaper Stars & Stripes in a story published Wednesday he "misremembered" the story and was sorry for repeating it.
Williams' admission came after Stars & Stripes contacted crew members of the Chinook helicopter that the anchorman had said he was in when it was hit by two rockets and small-arms fire. They said Williams was not aboard the aircraft during the incident at the start of the war. They said Williams arrived on another, undamaged helicopter an hour after the crippled Chinook had landed.
"I would not have chosen to make this mistake," Williams told the newspaper. "I don't know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another."
During the hockey broadcast Friday, Stars & Stripes said Williams told viewers, "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."
Williams' claim of surviving an air attack bothered several soldiers familiar with air operations at the time, including Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the helicopter that carried the NBC News crew. "No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft," he told the newspaper.
The soldier's complaints prompted Williams to apologize.
An NBC News spokesman had no immediate comment.