(Reuters) - A decision by a television broadcaster to show previously recorded images of fireworks exploding over Washington as crowds huddled under cloudy skies for the U.S. Independence Day celebration sparked confusion and outrage among viewers.

The Public Broadcasting Service's airing of the "A Capitol Fourth" concert contained the old footage due to inclement weather, the broadcaster said in a statement.

"Because this year's fireworks were difficult to see due to the weather, we made the decision to intercut fireworks footage from previous A Capitol Fourth," PBS said. "We apologize for any confusion."

But viewers, who said they tuned in under the impression they would see live footage, have been befuddled and unforgiving on social media.

"Wait ... is PBS showing fake fireworks from another year spliced in?! Looks way to clear," wrote Twitter user Jenn W during the event, which included musical performances staged on the Capital's West Lawn.

"Not cool @pbs," a Twitter user named Chris Wallgren wrote as messages on the social media platform questioning the authenticity of the display began to roll in. "Those shots are clearly not from tonight."

As criticisms multiplied, some came to PBS' defense.

"Thanks PBS for giving us a little break from the craziness and giving us such beauty," wrote one Twitter user, who didn't say whether they knew the fireworks footage had been previously aired.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Sandra Maler)