NBC's Brian Williams in 2010: Americans Were 'Lied To' About Katrina Response

By Brittany M. Hughes | February 6, 2015 | 3:25 PM EST

(CNSNews.com) – NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, under fire now for fabricating a story about being in a helicopter "hit by ground fire" while covering the war in Iraq in 2003, said in 2010 that he thought Americans were “lied to” about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and that this “shouldn’t” be forgotten “because we were failed by a lot of people.”

Williams was critical of the Bush administration’s handling of Katrina, particularly when it came to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) response to the crisis, in his documentary, "In His Own Words: Brian Williams on Hurricane Katrina." The documentary aired Oct. 27, 2005, on Sundance channel, and also on NBC on Aug. 28, 2006.

Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.

“People say we found our voice on this story, after some long, cold years of one Bush term and some change,” Williams said in the documentary, speaking of the role of the media--and himself--in reporting what happened during the storm.

“Here’s the difference: We beat the first responders to Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “That made us witnesses. And that gave us license to come at these government officials who were in the other side of that screen, the split-screen America we lived through for a week there, who were saying, ‘You know what?  Everything’s fine.’”

Williams did a 2010 interview with MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman about another, then-upcoming documentary, this one called “Hurricane Katrina: The First 5 Days," which aired Aug. 23, 2010 on NBC Dateline. Williams said, “And, so, the documentary will explain that these are five-year-ago memories, brings you right back into that time period. I wish, in the most altruistic sense, I wish every American could see it. Because you forget, and memories fuzz up.”

Brian Williams, anchor of the NBC Nightly News (AP Photo/NBC, Justin Stephens)

“And people right now are anxious to repair legacies from back then,” said Williams. “We shouldn’t. We shouldn’t because we were failed by a lot of people. And I think we were, I think we were lied to, regarding that response.”

“I was there, on the ground, with everyone who was suffering, and I was part of that audience being told, ‘Assets are on the way. Assets are in place. We have a plan,’” said Williams. “Well, they didn’t, and people suffered and people died. So, that’s my memories of it."

Williams has now recanted a story of being in a helicopter that came under fire in Iraq.

It’s a story Williams has told repeatedly over the years, including an appearance on CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman on Mar. 26, 2013, where he said, “Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire including the one I was in.”

This story has been debunked, including by a piece published in the New York Post by the pilot who flew the helicopter Williams was riding in.

Williams also wrote to The Stars and Stripes, the publication that covers U.S. armed forces who first exposed the falsehood.

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