In the midst of the scandal surrounding Brian Williams’ misrepresentation of his time spent covering the war in Iraq, NBC News announced Tuesday that the managing editor and anchor of NBC Nightly News will be suspended from the program for six months without pay.
"While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003," NBC News president Deborah Turness said in an internal memo to staff. "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."
The suspension comes just days after Williams announced that he would be taking some time away from the anchor desk after coming under fire for reporting that he had been traveling in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003. In actuality, Williams later confessed, he was in a different helicopter that was following the one that was hit.
"I made a mistake in recalling the events 12 years ago," Williams said on last Wednesday's NBC Nightly News broadcast. "I want to apologize. I said I was travelling in an aircraft hit by RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] fire. I was actually instead in a following aircraft."
Williams also apologized on Facebook saying, "I don't know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another."
Lester Holt will continue to fill in for Williams at the NBC Nightly News anchor desk during his suspension.
Read the full text of the NBC Universal statement below.
We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months. The suspension 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.
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."