NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months as the network investigates instances where he's embellished his presence during news events.
NBC News president Deborah Turness issued a statement today, "We have decided to suspended Brian Williams as the Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months. The suspended will be without pay and is effective immediately. We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News." The full statement is below.
Williams had been currently on a self-imposed hiatus as questions were raised about incidents he reported on. The main incident is how, while reporting in Iraq in 2003, he said that an Army helicopter ahead of his was shot down—but Williams has told the anecdote in more recent years by putting himself in the fallen chopper. Pilots have been upset with Williams' characterization and it's emerged as a crisis for NBC.
The NY Times reports, "His departure culminated a rapid and startling fall from grace for Mr. Williams, who at age 55 was the head of the highest-rated evening news show, the winner of top industry accolades, a coveted speaker at dinners and panels and a frequent celebrity guest on entertainment shows."
Our review, which is being led by Richard Esposito working closely with NBCUniversal General Counsel Kim Harris, is ongoing, but I think it is important to take you through our thought process in coming to this decision.
While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.
In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.
As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.
Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.
As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.
This has been a difficult time. But NBC News is bigger than this moment. You work so hard and dedicate yourselves each and every day to the important work of bringing trusted, credible news to our audience. Because of you, your loyalty, your dedication, NBC News is an organization we can - and should - all be proud of. We will get through this together.
Steve Burke asked me to share the following message.
“This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts. By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate. Brian’s life’s work is delivering the news. I know Brian loves his country, NBC News and his colleagues. He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him. Brian has shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone’s trust.”
New York Magazine reported earlier today, "While the speed of Williams's crash has stunned NBC staffers — 'the cannibalism that’s going on here is so ferocious,' one told me — many people inside NBC News knew about Williams’s tendency to exaggerate the now-infamous helicopter ride in Iraq. 'He was never a field reporter. He was incredibly insecure about it,' one former NBC News staffer said, speculating about why he felt the need to exaggerate."