Brian Williams takes time off from NBC Nightly News

Posted at 5:11 PM, Feb 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-07 17:32:22-05

Brian Williams is going off the air for a time.

Williams, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, is taking time off after recanting an Iraq War story. He was not on a helicopter struck by a rocket propelled grenade in 2003, as was repeated over the years.

"In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions," Williams said in a statement.

The revelation, first reported by Stars and Stripes, the daily newspaper that serves the U.S. military, damaged the credibility of the face of NBC News. His reporting is now subject to an internal investigation.

The issue flared up after Williams referenced the Iraq War story in a Jan. 30 Nightly News broadcast. Members of the military responded to a video clip of the segment that was posted on Facebook.

“Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft,” posted Lance Reynolds, a flight engineer. “I do remember you walking up about an hour after we had landed to ask me what had happened.”

Another man wrote that Williams was on his helicopter – one that did not come under fire:

“He was actually on my aircraft and we came in behind you about 30-45 minutes later,” wrote Joseph Miller, the flight engineer on Williams’ flight.

Days later, Williams recanted his story to Stars and Stripes and posted a response on Facebook. He said he conflated the incidents after viewing videos.

“I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Williams said to Stars and Stripes. “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”

Williams also posted a response to Reynolds, Miller and others on Facebook:

“You are absolutely right and I was wrong,” Williams wrote. “I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area -- and the fog of memory over 12 years -- made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”

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Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.