NBC News anchor Brian Williams has angered many military veterans for repeatedly telling a personal story of sustaining enemy fire in Iraq that never happened.
Over the past 12 years Williams and NBC claimed that he was on-board a Chinook helicopter that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire in Iraq in 2003, when in fact he arrived at the scene in a separate helicopter about an hour later and was never in grave danger.
“On this broadcast last week in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others following a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said in an on-air apology Wednesday night. “It didn't take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in the desert. I want to apologize: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the desert. This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran, and by extension: our brave military men and women - Veterans everywhere -- those who have served while I did not. I hope they know they have my greatest respect… and also now my apology.”
The omission isn’t sitting well with some.
“Brian knew what he was saying. He didn't forget what chopper he was on. It took the soldiers that were there to make him finally admit he lied about the incident,” SSG of the U.S. Army Anthony Anderson, who operates the Guardian of Valor website and Stolen Valor Facebook page, told FOX411. “Although it doesn't meet the definition [of] ‘Stolen Valor,’ it's still along the same lines, as he claimed to be in an incident involving combat that he wasn't in. I believe he only apologized because the soldiers protested. Had they not spoken up, would he have ever apologized for it?”
Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a former Army Ranger from 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment and a survivor in the 2012 Benghazi Consulate attack, was outraged.
"This is one of, if not the most despicable acts of lying to those who have served and the United States Citizens. He is stealing valor from those that have actually seen combat, been shot at with RPG's and small arms fire," he said. "I can tell you from firsthand experience that you do not misremember being shot at. This lie and continual lying to cover up the first lie says a lot about Mr. Williams’ character, or lack thereof. This is a serious offense."
Paronto added that while he is doubtful there will be any repercussions by NBC toward their prized “Nightly News” anchor, the public should scrutinize his legitimacy and everything he says.
"What concerns me as well is how much has he and/or NBC lied about over the years? In my opinion, and that's all it is, both are fully compromised news organizations and should no longer be a credible source for news for many years to come," he stated. "Keep in mind, if military personnel would've done this, he/she would at very least be given an Article 15, busted down in rank, and possibly pay withheld until a full investigation was completed."
Jonathan Gilliam, former Navy SEAL and federal agent condemned Williams for what he called “minimizing the lie” in his apology.
“Minimization and lying are the characteristics of a deviant behavior and are typically signs of guilt,” he said.
In a now painful-to-watch interview with David Letterman in 2013, Williams recounted his version of events.
"We were in some helicopters. What we didn’t know was, we were north of the invasion. We were the northernmost Americans in Iraq,” he told the late night host. “We were going to drop some bridge portions across the Euphrates so the Third Infantry could cross on them. Two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47."
But when approached for comment, an NBC News spokeswoman pointed us to a Dateline transcript dated March 26, 2003 quotes Williams: “on the ground, we learn the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky.”
In addition, Williams has written a comment in response to service members that have posted about the issue on Facebook.
“You are absolutely right and I was wrong. In fact, I spent much of the weekend thinking I'd gone crazy. 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 wrote. “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 went on to describe his memory of the armored mech platoon and meeting different service members.
“My attempt to pay tribute to CSM Terpak was to honor his 23 [plus] years in service to our nation, and it had been 12 years since I saw him. The ultimate irony is: In writing up the synopsis of the 2 nights and 3 days I spent with him in the desert, I managed to switch aircraft. Nobody's trying to steal anyone's valor,” he added. “Quite the contrary: I was and remain a civilian journalist covering the stories of those who volunteered for duty. This was simply an attempt to thank Tim, our military and Veterans everywhere -- those who have served while I did not."