As reports of Jon Stewart's “Daily Show” departure were breaking in the world of fake news, NBC decided to slip in some news from the world of real news on Tuesday (February 10). [I hope that made sense. It made sense in my head.]
NBC News officially announced on Tuesday that NBC News Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months in the wake of ongoing controversy stemming from Williams' confession that he had not, as he had long claimed, come under fire in a military helicopter during a 2003 visit to Iraq.
In a Tuesday memo, NBC News Chief Deborah Turness writes:
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.”
It was less than a week ago, on the February 4 broadcast of “Nightly News,” that Williams offered an apology for making up and oft-embellishing his story of being aboard a helicopter hit with RPG fire in Iraq in March 2003 during the US invasion. He had repeated the story as recently as the January 30 news broadcast.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said on-air. “It did not take long to hear from some brave men and women in the air crews who were also in that desert. I want to apologize.”
He continued, “This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and, by extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not. I hope they know they have my greatest respect and also, now, my apology.”
Williams' on-air apology was followed by Turness' announcement that an internal investigation was forthcoming, which was then followed by Williams' announcement that he would be stepping down for “several days,” with Lester Holt taking over the chair.
Brian Williams took over as NBC News anchor and managing editor in December 2004.
Does six months seem like an appropriate penalty? Do you think Williams will really return after the suspension is up?