NBC News suspends Brian Williams for 6 months
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – NBC News has suspended its main anchor Brian Williams for 6 months after the controversy surrounding his embellished Iraq war story.
"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," Deborah Turness, NBC News president, said in a statement released Tuesday, February 10.
Lester Holt will continue anchoring "NBC Nightly News" in Williams' absence, Turness said.
On Wednesday, February 4, Williams recanted a story that he had often repeated about coming under fire in a helicopter while covering the Iraq war in 2003.
In his earlier statements, Williams said he was in a helicopter with US troops that was hit by enemy fire. In his admission, he actually was in a separate helicopter which was not hit.
"I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft," Williams said during his on-air apology.
Turness' note stated: "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."
"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," she said.
The decision to suspend was made by Turness, NBCUniversal News Group chairman Patricia Fili-Krushel, and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke.
"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," Turness' note added.
"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," Burke said.
As recently as January 30, Williams had repeated the story, recounting the series of events on television in a tribute to a retired soldier who helped provide ground security for the grounded aircraft and crew.
But crew members of the Chinook helicopter and Williams' aircraft told Stars and Stripes, a US publication that covers the armed forces, that the anchor had been nowhere near the fired upon helicopter or other Chinooks in its formation.
He instead arrived an hour later in a separate helicopter, which landed due to an oncoming sandstorm.
Lance Reynolds, the flight engineer on the helicopter that was hit, told Stars and Stripes "it was something personal for us that was kind of life-changing for me. I know how lucky I was to survive it."
"It felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn't deserve to participate in."
Williams said the story 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."
On Saturday, February 7, Williams went off air temporarily while an internal investigation is ongoing. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com