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Kelly File

Reporter who broke Brian Williams story speaks out

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," February 6, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Earlier tonight I spoke with Travis Tritten, the Capitol Hill reporter for Stars and Stripes. He is the one broke the story and has continued to dig for the truth.

Travis, good to see you tonight. Thanks for being here, and it's been really stellar reporting by you guys because the veterans came to you and you've stayed on it.

Let's just start with when in -- in your estimation based on the conversations that you had with the -- with the guys who were actually in these helicopters, when did the misleading statements by Mr. Williams begin?

TRAVIS TRITTEN, THE CAPITOL HILL REPORTER, STARS AND STRIPES: What they told me was from the very beginning they felt that this story was misreported and misrepresented. And really they have been frustrated and angry about it since then.

KELLY: He claims that he was part of a group of helicopters that was going on a mission and that one -- one of the choppers took RPG fire, AK-47 fire and so on. You have a map tonight that shows in fact Brian Williams' helicopter wasn't part of that mission and actually was going a different way. Tell -- tell us what we're seeing here with big windy and Hercules.

TRITTEN: Sure, yeah. I spoke with five veterans who were on these aircraft at length. There were two companies here. There was a Chinook Company of three helicopters traveling north. This company came under fire. There was a second company of three Chinook helicopters traveling in the opposite direction, south, carrying Brian Williams and -- and -- and the NBC crew. This second company traveling south never came under fire.

KELLY: Yes.

TRITTEN: They completed their mission and they ended up landing due to a sandstorm.

KELLY: So let's -- let's talk about the specific statements that Brian Williams has made. Because now it's -- it's coming out that the reports as far back as 2003 when he first got back are allegedly inaccurate. Here's the first one where in his original reporting when he returned he offered the following audio from one of the choppers that was apparently in the big windy group, it was not in the group he was in that was heading in the totally opposite direction. Here's how he reported it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC NEWS/2003)

WILLIAMS: Indeed just before we're able to make our drop, radio traffic makes clear this routine mission is running into trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We took fire on the way in. We currently are not under fire. I say again, not under fire. But we look for some kind of security, over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: We took fire on the way in. Why is this misleading?

TRITTEN: What you're hearing is a radio coming from this other company of Chinooks that was heading toward Baghdad.

KELLY: And that.

TRITTEN: -- a different company altogether.

KELLY: That Williams is nowhere near. This is -- well, I should tell the viewers that the pilot of Brian Williams' fight -- flight, Chris Simion (ph), drafted a piece today that he -- the he made public saying, our -- our flight, he was his pilot, "was uneventful with the exception of a desert dust storm that caused deteriorating conditions not suitable for flight." He says, it did not happen as Mr. Williams claims and he goes on, we'll go through it.

The second thing that happens in that 2003 report is he suggests the Chinook ahead of the one that Brian Williams was in was almost blown out of the sky. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Suddenly without knowing why we learned we've been ordered to land in the desert. On the ground we learned the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: What is misleading about that?

TRITTEN: Yeah, in no way was he following this Chinook that had come under fire. Again, he was in a separate formation and a separate company traveling in the opposite direction. So, I don't see in any way where you could ever accurately portray that as following the aircraft that was hit.

KELLY: Uh-huh. He talked about -- this is -- this is the pilot of his actual flight, talked about how that big windy aircraft was not part of our unit, I'm quoting. "It was not part of our flight. We were not flying behind them. Our missions were completely separate." This is the pilot of Brian Williams' flight writing, "Brian Williams began to tell the story from 2003 that the lead aircraft in our flight had received this ground fire. This was not true."

And then we hear Brian Williams in 2013 on with David Letterman getting very explicit about the fact that he claimed the helicopter in which he rode actually took ground fire. Here's that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW"/CBS, MARCH 2013)

WILLIAMS: Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire including the one I was in.

LETTERMAN: No kidding.

WILLIAMS: RPG and AK-47.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: Here he's suggesting that the aircraft he was in took AK-47 fire. Not supported by the facts?

TRITTEN: Absolutely not supported by the facts. You know, I have two veterans who were on aircraft in the company that he was flying with and they said they took no fire at any point during that day.

KELLY: And then it culminated in a report last Friday where it -- it -- I mean, this was the grand -- the grand sort of, you know, the granddaddy of all the stories he told where now the aircraft he was actually traveling in received RPG fire. Here's that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,"JAN. 30)

WILLIAMS: The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: That's just -- he had never even told that one before. That's just taking it to a whole new level.

TRITTEN: Yeah, this is kind of the final stage in an -- in an evolving story, an evolving flawed recount of what happened.

KELLY: And now he's saying in -- in that same thing he was saying that -- or he told David Letterman he said the captain of his aircraft had received a purple heart for a wound to the ear. And again this Chris Simion (ph) writes today, "I was the pilot and commanded that aircraft. I do not have a purple heart. And my ears are just fine."

And it finally culminates in -- in the apology that he issued on Monday after all these veterans wrote in with the RPG apparently pushed them -- some of these veterans over the edge and they got a lot more vocal and spoke with you, Stars and Stripes. And then he had to issue this apology, which these veterans had to come out, again and say, "No, it's still misleading." Here -- her it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed after the ground fire incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: What is wrong with saying he was in a following aircraft?

TRITTEN: Again, if you see how these companies were flying, there's just no way to explain it as you were following this other aircraft. It also implies that he was close. You know, I was told by these crews that when these Chinooks fly they have, you know, several rotor blade links in between them. That's considered following. You know, that's close enough to have very good visuals on the aircraft there. So traveling in the opposite direction, it just cannot be described as --

KELLY: What.

TRITTEN: -- following the aircraft.

KELLY: What do these guys who were actually there think is going on here -- think he's been doing with the -- with the story?

TRITTEN: You know, they -- they think that he wants the glory. He wants to share in the glory of this war story. And it's an extraordinary story what happened to this Chinook. I mean, these guys that were on this one Chinook could have died easily. It was extraordinary that they survived.

KELLY: And have they forgiven him? Because he apologized and said he misremembered the events, that he conflated his memories, you know, over the years. Do they accept that?

TRITTEN: The veterans I spoke with who talked to me about this apology they, -- they accepted it. One told me, you know, I don't want to kick him while he's down now.

KELLY: Yes.

TRITTEN: You know, but I think the wider vet and military population has, you know, there's a lot more anger out there plenty of people calling, you know, for -- for Williams to be fired.

KELLY: Yeah. I do want to tell the viewers that yesterday we reported there -- there was one man who went on CNN and claimed to be the pilot of the flight that Brian Williams was in. That man has since recanted his story. He was the one supporting the story that maybe there was AK-47 fire on Brian Williams' aircraft. He now says he doesn't know whether that's true and there's doubts about whether he was in fact the man on that mission because this other man has come forward saying, I was the pilot, not this other guy.

In any event, Travis, it's great to see you. Thank you very much for being here tonight.

TRITTEN: Thank you, Megyn.

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