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Brian Williams faces fierce mockery after recanting Iraq war story

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” speaks at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
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NBC News anchor Brian Williams faced swift, and often harsh and sarcastic, reaction Wednesday after he recanted a story that he was aboard an Army helicopter that was hit with enemy fire in Iraq and forced to land.

The longtime NBC News journalist apologized in an interview with Stars & Stripes, saying he had misremembered what happened. He was actually in another nearby helicopter.

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

[RELATED: Why war reporters can’t stand the Brian Williams scandal]

The story drew immediate scorn online, where critics — including veterans and retired baseball star Curt Schilling — questioned how it would have been possible to make that mistake. The incident, said to have occurred during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003, drew new scrutiny after soldiers on the helicopters Williams referred to said he wasn’t there after NBC News featured on Friday a story crediting Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Terpak with keeping the newsman safe “after their Chinook helicopter was hit and crippled by enemy fire.”

Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, has apologized for telling a story about coming under fire during a reporting assignment in Iraq in 2003. The Post’s Erik Wemple describes what Williams got wrong and the potential impact on his reputation and career. (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

The story spawned two hashtags, #BrianWilliamsMisremembers and #BrianWilliamsWarStories, devoted to mocking the anchor. Others questioned whether he should keep his job. Here’s a sampling: