Prominent veterans service organizations are blasting Brian Williams over the NBC anchor’s false claims that he was on a helicopter forced down by enemy fire in 2003.
But the groups are stopping short of calling for the Nightly News anchor to resign.
“As an organization of wartime veterans, The American Legion finds his behavior reprehensible, and we hope that Mr. Williams will redeem himself,” Michael Helm, the group’s national commander, said in a statement.
“But ultimately, the American people will judge his character,” he added.
Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, struck a similar tone.
"His embellishment shows he has no idea what the term 'direct fire' really means. Whatever personal or professional fallout that follows will and should be determined by the American public," he said in a statement to The Hill.
Williams apologized during Wednesday night’s broadcast for claiming he was as aboard a U.S. Army helicopter when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the early days of the Iraq War in 2003, an account he had retold several times over the last decade.
Meanwhile, the pilot of the helicopter Williams was on told CNN on Thursday that their aircraft did come under smalls arms fire and "we were all scared."
That didn’t stop viewers from going online to voice their disbelief over his claim that he “misremembered” the event, chalking it up to “the fog of memory over 12 years.”
Observers are now watching to see what action, if any, NBC might take against Williams, who has become a household name for news.
One key veterans group came to the anchor’s defense on Thursday.
“Brian Williams made a mistake. He has apologized and I accept his apology,” Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), wrote in a Facebook post.
He touted Williams’ years of work on behalf of veterans across a gamut of initiatives as a reason people should move on.
“Persecuting him over this mistake will do little to help our veterans and service members. I am confident that in years ahead, Brian will continue to dedicate himself to our vets — as he always has — and inspire others to do the same,” according to Reickhoff.
“I hope that everyone who is focused on this will soon turn their attention to the most important issues facing us as veterans like suicide, unemployment and homelessness,” he added. “Those are the most urgent stories that really need covering.”
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCainJohn McCainPentagon should have a civilian chief to give peace a chance McCain to support waiver for Mattis, Trump team says Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), a revered Vietnam War veteran, said any decision about Williams’ future is "up to his network and others.”
“I’m honestly not too concerned about the future of Brian Williams,” he told The Hill.
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