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Michael Rusch/YouTube

A decade later, Brian Williams admits he wasn’t shot down in Iraq

"I made a mistake."


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Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 5, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 2:58 pm CDT


For several years now, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been telling a version of a story about his time embedded as a journalist in Iraq that involves the helicopter he was flying in being shot down. He admits now that it was a “mistake.” 

As BuzzFeed notes, Williams has told the story of the event, which took place during his coverage of the Iraq invasion in 2003, several times on-air, including a 2013 David Letterman appearance and, most recently, a Jan. 30 piece that reunited him with a soldier who supposedly rescued the reporter and his crew. 

Once the piece was posted online, commenters called Williams out on the fabrication, and he responded with a statement posted Wednesday (Feb. 4). 

“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,” he writes. “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.” 

Williams then apologized on air on the NBC Nightly News

“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” he says. “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.” 

Watch his apology below.

Screengrab via Michael Rusch/YouTube

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*First Published: Feb 5, 2015, 11:10 am CST