Israeli Officer Defends Brian Williams’ Story of Hezbollah Fire

An Israeli army officer has defended Brian Williams’ accounts of witnessing rocket fire below his helicopter during Israel’s war with Hezbollah in 2006, after the Washington Post said the newsman had given varying versions of the incident.

Jacob Dallal, a reserve major in the Israeli army’s media liaison office, who accompanied the NBC news anchor on the helicopter, said that during their flight he and Williams saw Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon strike the ground below them in northern Israel. He said his recollection was that the anchor’s subsequent reporting “was representative of the experience.”

Williams announced Saturday he was taking a break from anchoring NBC Nightly News after admitting that he was not on a helicopter that was struck by an RPG in 2003 in Iraq, contrary to statements he had made over several years. Williams said his remarks were a mistake and blamed the “fog of memory” after veterans disputed his account.

Accounts of other incidents given by Williams are now being called into question, including his reporting on Hurricane Katrina.

The Post reported Sunday that Williams has given differing versions of his helicopter ride during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, including a 2007 interview in which he saw “rockets passing just beneath the helicopter I was riding in.”

‘Big Clouds’

Writing in an NBC blog a year earlier, Williams described hearing the pilot mention rockets that “landed about 30 seconds” earlier, and witnessing one launched “from a distance of six miles” that he saw heading toward Israel. The Post suggested that this account contradicted the later one which described the rockets as closer to his helicopter.

“The general descriptions Williams gave were accurate,” Dallal, the Israeli military official, said in a phone interview on Monday. “There was Katyusha rocket fire during the helicopter flight, the pilots showed where the Katyusha had just landed, and you could see the big clouds of dust where they landed.”

“I believe they said the helicopter itself was not in danger, but the trajectory of the rockets was beneath us,” Dallal said.

NBC spokeswoman Erika Masonhall didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the Post story.

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