Travis J. Tritten, reporter for Stars and Stripes, broke this story, and joined us in-studio.
Here is his interview with FOX 5's Steve Chenevey:
Steve Chenevey (SC): You were trying to get to the bottom of this by talking to the folks who were in that helicopter. What did they have to say?
Travis Trenton (TT): "I think they were puzzled as to how you can make a mistake like this. They are on mission. It was their first day of the invasion of Iraq. So, these are memories that are seared into their minds. Experiences that were live changing and that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. They were puzzled and a little confused as to how something like this could be confused."
SC: What was their version of the story? Try to set the record straight from their perspective.
TT: There was a group of three Chinooks that were bringing Apache parts from Kuwait to a base out of sight of Baghdad. I talked to the mission commander, and crew members part of that formation and that mission. The mission commander told me that NBC was not on any of the aircraft. He checked back on his journal he kept every day of the war, and I also spoke to two crew members who are actually in the Chinook that was hit by RPG fire. They're said they were 100% certain NBC was not on their helo or on any of the three helos in formation."
SC: Brian Williams eventually made friends with one of the men on the ground as part of this mission when they were there. This kind of came out when he was trying to, as he mentioned in his apology, honor this friend for his service. Do you think that maybe these claims came out just like trying to make it look like this person did more for their country perhaps, trying to honor him in an inflated way, maybe it wasn't Brian Williams so much saying he did this but maybe trying to say, look, these are what our heroes are doing over there?
TT: Yes. When I talked to Brian Williams, I mean he really underscored that point. What he was trying to do is honor these troops. But again, it's difficult to understand how when doing that you could mistakenly say that you were on aircraft that was shot down.
SC: So what's the feeling from members of the troops, though, if the intent is to honor them, but maybe not in the right way. What was their reaction?
TT: What they told me this command master sergeant being honored, they did not want to tarnish that any way. They respected his service. He served honorably for four deployments. But what they said, they felt like this was a personal experience, and they felt that it was kind of violation for somebody to claim they were part of it when they were not.
SC: It kind of brings back memories. I know Hillary Clinton had this come up before in the past, talking about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia. Is it just this perception I guess that who he have is covering these events maybe wants to say, yeah, we were a part of this maybe in more of a way than they actually are?
TT: Possibly. I mean I think this is just about basic journalistic standards that you need to check back if you're unsure. If your memory might be faulty, you need to check the record and be 100% certain before you make a claim like this. And for whatever reason, Brian Williams did not do that, NBC did not correct the record until now.
SC: The apology has been made now. Does that help in some way with the apology being out there at least or is it too little too late?
TT: With the soldiers told me they are glad to hear an apology, and they want to put this behind them. They're thankful that the record can be set straight now.
READ MORE: http://www.stripes.com/news/us/nbc-s-brian-williams-recants-iraq-story-after-soldiers-protest-1.327792