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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Speaking publicly for the first time since admitting that he lied about his personal experience of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, comedian and actor Steve Rannazzisi apologized on Tuesday and said he feels awful about what he called a "dumb mistake."
Rannazzisi, star of the FX comedy series "The League," had described in many interviews his memories of working for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan's World Trade Center when hijacked planes were flown into the buildings.
Rannazzisi, 37, said the events inspired him to move to Los Angeles and pursue a comedy career. But the New York Times last month uncovered the truth: That Merrill Lynch had no record of his employment, and had no offices in either tower.
"My dumb mistake created a story that hit a wound that should have never been touched," Rannazzisi told Howard Stern on Stern's daily radio show.
But, he added, "It was a completely out of the blue situation," describing how the deception unfolded in "waves."
"It wasn't calculated," the comedian said.
Eventually he said he pulled his wife into the saga, asking her to back up his story that she was working in the south tower on Sept. 11 as well, when in fact he told Stern that she was working at the nearby World Financial Center that day, and that her experience helped influence him to create his own story.
"I know what I did was terrible," Rannazzisi said. "I know that I hurt a lot of people - people that lost people, people that helped people survive. And those are the people that I am truly sorry. I feel awful," he said.
The seventh season of "The League" debuted just before the Times report, but Rannazzisi said his co-stars stood by him.
"It's out now and I don't have to wait and see what's going to happen or be cautious anymore," Rannazzisi said on Stern's show, adding "I don't' have to live with the lie anymore. I'm an idiot. I made a terrible mistake, but this is not who I am and I'm going to move on beyond this."
Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Steve Orlofsky