On Wednesday, Williams apologized during NBC Nightly News‘s telecast for inaccurately recounting a tale from 2003 in which the helicopter he was riding in was shot down by enemy rockets:
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” he said. “I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed after the ground fire incident and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert. This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women.”
During several public engagements—and not just in thanking one vet—Williams has claimed to have been in a helicopter that was forced to make an emergency landing following enemy fire. In a separate Facebook apology, Williams wrote that he “was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG.”
Yet soldiers who were present are claiming that Williams did not deal with enemy fire at all, and it was in fact a sandstorm that caused his company’s emergency landing in the Karbala area of Iraq.
Veteran David Luke, formerly of the 159th Aviation Regiment, was in a helicopter flying in the same company as Williams. Luke said that despite the apology, Williams’ long-running anecdote remains “misleading.”
Luke alleges that Williams’ helicopter was headed south toward Kuwait and only passed by the eventually stricken-by-RPG chopper—for its part, in a different aviation company headed north.
Moreover, Luke said that Williams did not witness the RPG attack at all but rather that their (entirely separate) company heard about it over radio afterward. Due to the sandstorm, both Williams’ helicopter and the stricken helicopter crossed paths at a shared military base, and it was here that the NBC team was able to gather firsthand accounts.
This is the latest in Williams’ “unmitigated disaster.” It’s unclear whether he’ll face disciplinary sanctions from NBC.
Update: 12:51am ET: In yet another twist, pilot Rich Krell, who flew the helicopter carrying Williams, tells CNN that the aircraft did take enemy fire, but he added that Williams’ original claim of an RPG attack was inaccurate.
“Some of things he’s said are not true,” Krell told CNN. “But some of the things they’re saying against him are not true either.”