Brian Williams was mercilessly mocked on Twitter after the “NBC Nightly News” anchor admitted he was not aboard a U.S. Air Force helicopter that was hit by two rockets and grounded during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, as he had previously claimed.
In an interview with Stars & Stripes, Williams apologized, saying he had “misremembered” what happened.
Twitter users jumped at the rare opportunity to mock the longtime newsman, many using the hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.
This Brian Williams RPG story reminds me of the one time I was wounded in the Battle of Stalingrad— Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) February 4, 2015
"So I said 'give it to Marshawn and keep giving it to him', and that's how we won the Super Bowl." - #BrianWilliamsMisremembers— Peyton's Head (@PeytonsHead) February 5, 2015
Williams reiterated his skewed version of events on the air last week during a report about a tribute for retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Terpak at a New York Rangers game, where the NBC anchor was reunited with the soldier who “saved” his life.
But in a comment on NBC Nightly News' Facebook page, members of the crew called Williams out.
“Sorry dude, I don't remember you being on my aircraft,” Flight Engineer Lance Reynolds wrote. “I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened. Then I remember you guys taking back off in a different flight of Chinooks from another unit and heading to Kuwait to report your 'war story' to the Nightly News. The whole time we were still stuck in Iraq trying to repair the aircraft and pulling our own Security.”
Williams later apologized in a Facebook comment.
“To Joseph, Lance, Jonathan, Pate, Michael and all those who have posted: You are absolutely right and I was wrong,” Williams wrote. “In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I'd gone crazy. I feel terrible about making this mistake.”
He formally recanted the story Wednesday.
“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams told Stars & Stripes. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”
For some, though, that explanation wasn't enough.
Dear Brian Williams: Getting hit by RPG fire is not something you oopsie get confused over or "conflate" because 12 yrs ago. Dude.— David Pleasant (@dpleasant) February 4, 2015
In December, NBC signed Williams, who had recently celebrated his 10th anniversary as “Nightly News” anchor, to a new five-year contract worth a reported $10 million per year.
“Brian is one of the most trusted journalists of our time,” NBC News president Deborah Turness wrote in a memo to staffers announcing the new deal. “He has led this organization through every major news event for the last decade, from Hurricane Katrina in his first year in the anchor chair to his exclusive interview with Edward Snowden this year, through elections, wars, natural disasters, tragedies and triumphs. In all of those cases he’s taken ‘Nightly News’s’ viewers to the heart of the stories that matter most in a way that’s uniquely his.”