Military newspaper Stars and Stripes has posted the full interview with NBC News anchor Brian Williams that led to him stepping down from his post temporarily after admitting that he exaggerated a story from his coverage of the Iraq invasion.
The interview gives the fullest explanation we’ve seen yet from Williams about how he misremembered an incident in which a helicopter ahead of his got shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2003.
Williams has recounted this story several times over the past 12 years and has embellished his role in the incident over time. Earlier this month, he said on NBC that the helicopter he was flying in was “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Crew members who were on the helicopter that was actually hit by a rocket-propelled grenade then came forward to say Williams was on another helicopter that arrived at the site later.
Here’s what Williams said when Stars and Stripes reporter Travis J. Tritten asked how he could misremember which aircraft he was on:
It was my first engagement of the war and remember I was — we were all I think — scared. I have yet to meet the veteran who doesn’t admit to cinching up a little bit when it starts, and it all became a fog of getting down on the ground, what do we do now, taking our direction from the air crews — I’m travelling with a retired four-star general — and then the arrival of the armoured ‘mech’ platoon. So, a professional will look at this differently. They go into a kind of hyper-drive. I did what a civilian, an untrained civilian, would do in that instance and it was being scared. I think anyone in my shoes would admit that. It could not have been a more foreign environment. All we knew is we had been fired upon. All we knew was we had set down and then with the arrival of the sandstorm, how do we defend our little desert bivouac area.
Whether or not Williams’ helicopter was hit with small-arms fire (as opposed to an RPG) is in some dispute.
Some crew members have said that Williams’ copter was not fired on and arrived at the site 30 minutes to an hour after the helicopter that was hit by an RPG landed, while another crew member said he remembers Williams’ aircraft getting hit with small-arms fire.
In the Stars and Stripes interview, Williams maintains that his helicopter came under some sort of fire.
“Because I knew we had all come under fire, I guess I had assumed that all of the airframes took some damage because we all went down,” he said.
Williams announced over the weekend that he is stepping down from anchoring NBC “Nightly News” for “several days” in light of the fallout over this story.
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