NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In a newly released audio interview, embattled NBC news anchorman Brian Williams is pressed for more answers about his claims that he came under military fire while in Iraq.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the interview with the military newspaper Stars and Stripes took place last Wednesday, before Williams’ on-air apology and several days before he announced he was temporarily stepping away from the “NBC Nightly News.” It was posted online Monday.

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Stars and Stripes reporter Travis J. Tritten, who spoke with crew members on the helicopter in which Williams was riding in 2003, pushed the anchor to explain how he could have “misremembered” the events he is now under scrutiny for.

“All of them told me that they couldn’t understand how you could misremember which aircraft you were on or whether your aircraft was hit, so I’m just wondering how does that happen,” Tritten says.

Williams responds: “Same reasoning in reverse: It was my first engagement of the war and, remember, I was, we were all, I think, scared.”

Williams goes on to explain that the memory became a fog of events.

“I did what a civilian, an untrained civilian, would do, in that instance, and it was being scared,” Williams said.

Williams also said he thought his helicopter was one of several shot at.

Tritten asks Williams about accounts saying he was an hour behind three Chinook helicopters that came under fire — one of which was hit.

“And that’s the first I’ve heard of that,” Williams said. “I did not think we were in trail by that far.”

Over time, Williams repeated the inaccurate story, culminating in an appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” in 2013.

“Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground fire, including the one I was in,” Williams told Letterman.

Some critics suggest that Williams, who apologized last week for falsely claiming that he was in helicopter that had been hit by a grenade while in Iraq in 2003, should be fired. Others wonder if commerce will win out, since Williams has kept “Nightly News” at the top of the ratings while much of his news division crumbled around him. How much are the years of good work worth?

“This is one of the toughest calls that I’ve ever seen,” said Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University. “On the one hand, the public is right to expect nothing but the truth from our reporters and our news anchors.”

Williams announced Saturday he was stepping away entirely from the show for a few days. NBC News, which launched an internal probe, hasn’t given a timetable for how long its look into Williams’ statements, coordinated by the division’s investigative editor Richard Esposito, will take or if its report will be made public.

Levinson pointed out that this isn’t a case of someone deliberately inventing news sources or, in the case of Dan Rather at CBS a decade ago, reporting during a presidential campaign a story casting doubt on President George W. Bush’s wartime record that could not be backed up.

“The real difficulty for a news organization, or a reporter, is that once you’ve made one misstep, it’s really hard to earn (trust) back,” said David Westin, former ABC News president. “You can. But it takes a lot of time. It takes a long period of time with proven performances. It takes a long time of getting it right.”

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The incident should remind news organizations that it’s more important to report the news than “brand” their personalities, he said.

More than 1,000 comments were posted to NBC’s “Nightly News” Facebook page. The majority supported Williams, with some posters suggesting they wouldn’t watch the broadcast until he returned. But some commenters said they wouldn’t trust him again.

Williams took a pounding in the ratings for his final night on the air Friday, but it’s unclear whether the drop in viewership was related to the controversy.

The Nielsen company said ABC’s “World News Tonight” had 8.46 million viewers on Friday, while NBC’s “Nightly News” had just under 8 million.

For this television season as a whole, Williams’ newscast has led in the ratings by an average of roughly 600,000 viewers each night over ABC.

On Thursday, the night after Williams’ apology, NBC beat ABC by about 800,000 viewers, Nielsen said.

Although NBC leads in the ratings this season as it has for much of the past decade, ABC’s broadcast with David Muir does win occasional nights. ABC has beaten NBC on nine individual nights since the beginning of the TV season in September — six of them Friday nights, which in general is NBC’s weakest evening. On the Friday before Williams made his admission, ABC won by 400,000 viewers.

Substitute Lester Holt takes over “Nightly News” Monday for an undetermined amount of time.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Williams’ televised apology has only served to sharped the controversy.

“All the bloggers and all the others that are investigating Brian Williams are going to be investigating for other places where he has misspoken or exaggerated,” said Frank Sesno of the George Washington University School of Media and Public affairs.

Williams’ claim that he was robbed at gunpoint as a teen in Red Bank is now Being scrutinized.

Meanwhile, another instance emerged of Williams appearing to embellish a wartime reporting experience.

Williams traveled to Israel in July 2006 to cover that country’s military campaign against Hezbollah. The anchor reported on MSNBC that he flew in a Black Hawk helicopter with Israeli military officials at a height of 1,500 feet. He said he saw a trail of smoke and dust where Katyusha rockets had landed in the uninhabited Israeli countryside. Then, he said he witnessed two rockets being launched toward Israel some six miles from where he was flying, according to the network transcript.

In an interview at Fairfield University more than a year later, Williams said that Katyusha rockets passed “just underneath the helicopter I was riding in,” according to a film of the interview, described in The Washington Post on Monday.

Williams was even more descriptive in an August 2006 appearance with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

“Here’s a view of rockets I have never seen, passing underneath us, 1,500 feet beneath us,” Williams said. “And we’ve got the gunner doors on this thing, and I’m saying to the general, some four-star, ‘It wouldn’t take much for them to adjust the aim and try to do a ring toss right through our open doors, would it?'”

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