NEW YORK — NBC news anchor Brian Williams has publicly dropped his claim that he was personally beheaded by al Qaeda in Iraq, saying he had misremembered the event.
Williams — known as ‘The Most Trusted NBC Nightly News Anchor in America’ — has admitted he “was never captured by al Qaeda in Iraq in May 2004, nor murdered by AQI leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi” in a notorious propaganda video.
Though Williams had been making the claim for more than a decade, it had not received any scrutiny until a recent comment he made on the execution of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
During an evening broadcast last week, Williams said, “I can image what [Kaseasbeh] went through, because I remember when I had my head sawn off in Fallujah by al Qaeda [in Iraq], and how horrible that was.”
Critics have charged Williams with appropriating the story of former hostage Nick Berg, pointing out that Williams was nowhere near Iraq on that date, and was in Washington D.C. accepting an honorary degree from a Catholic University. His defenders have claimed the two events probably felt the same.
Meanwhile, critics are examining other past statements of Williams, such as his claim last year to have been killed on 9/11.
“Looking at this now historic footage of the twisted remains of downtown Manhattan, it’s hard to remember all our fellow citizens who suffered through this ordeal twelve years ago. It’s even hard for me, and I remember being crushed to death by tons of concrete in the South Tower,” Williams said in a 9/11 anniversary broadcast.
NBC has already announced plans to conduct an internal investigation of Williams, ironically making him the only person likely to be punished for lying about Iraq. The network has also begun quietly pulling other suspect claims, like Williams’ tearful confession in 2012 that he was having affairs with both Paula Broadwell and David Petraeus.
Some members of the U.S. military have condemned Williams’ statements. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a former Marine Corporal who lied about being taken hostage in Iraq, said Williams had unjustly drawn attention away from his own false claims, which should take precedence.
Williams, a longtime supporter of the U.S. military, read out a public apology on the air Thursday evening.
“This was part of a bungled attempt by me to thank our nation’s veterans, who put their lives on the line for us every single day. It makes me feel even worse than the time ISIS locked me in a cage and burned me alive.”
Duffel Blog writer Lee Ho Fuk contributed to this article.