(MEDIA GENERAL) – The reaction has been swift and severe following the apology by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on his broadcast Wednesday night. Williams apologized after he “made a mistake” by telling viewers he had been in a helicopter during the Iraq War that had been hit by rocket-propelled grenade fire. Williams had, in fact, been in a trailing chopper and was never hit. However, it remains unclear how far behind the attack he was.
The story was first told by Williams immediately following the attack. In that account, Williams never claimed to have been inside the chopper that was hit. Over the years, the story changed. Al Tompkins, a consultant for the Poynter Institute, a worldwide leader in journalism education, compiled seven versions of the story Williams told over the last dozen years.
The apology became necessary after Friday’s broadcast of NBC Nightly News. During the newscast, Williams showed a clip of a veteran involved in securing his and his crew’s safety during the Iraq War being honored at a hockey game. Williams thanked the veteran with an emotional salute. Following the broadcast, veterans went to Facebook to express their anger that Williams had lied. They said he had not been in the helicopter hit by enemy fire. After inquiries by a reporter at the military paper Stars and Stripes, Williams was led to apologize.
Here is exactly what Williams said on his latest NBC Nightly News broadcast:
“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. 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,” Williams said.
Reaction from around the world came quickly following the apology. Al Tompkins a consultant with Poynter put together all seven versions of Williams’ story over the years.
Others online were not as objective.