WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Brian Williams, NBC news anchor for "Nightly News," is under fire from veterans and active duty members of the U.S. military after lying about being under fire while in a helicopter during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. After soldiers, who actually were in the aircraft that took the enemy fire, revealed his story to be false, Williams apologized on-air, calling his embellishment a "mistake."
Williams told his false version of events while giving a tribute to a retired command sergeant major at a New York Rangers game Friday. He said that on March 24, 2003, he was aboard a Chinook helicopter that was impacted by a shoulder launched weapon and forced to land. He replayed the moment on his news show, which is broadcast and watched by more thna 10 million viewers.
"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," Williams said. "Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry."
Soldiers from the 159th Aviation Regiment, who were in the attack, disputed Williams' claims, telling Stars and Stripes the news anchor was nowhere near the three helicopters that took enemy fire. While those helicopters were forced to land, Williams showed up in a separate helicopter about an hour later.
Altogether, Williams was with the downed birds for about 10 minutes. He and an NBC crew took several photos before leaving the site to see other Army operations in the area.
However, NBC headlines from as early as March 26, 2003 read "Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC's Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire."
Williams apologized for twisting the truth on-air Wednesday night.
"I would not have chosen to make this mistake," the 55-year-old anchor said. "I don't know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another."
He added that his story was part of a "bungled attempt" to thank the veterans who risked their lives to protect him and many others in Iraq.
Veterans have not let Williams off so easy, though. Some have even called into question his credibility as a reporter and NBC news anchor.
"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 told FOX411. "Had they not spoken up, would he have ever apologized for it?"
"I can tell you from firsthand experience that you do not misremember being shot at," said Kris Paronto, a former Army Ranger from the 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment and survivor of the Benghazi Consulate attack.
It's "despicable," he added.