NBC announced Tuesday that it is suspending Brian Williams as “Nightly News” anchor and managing editor for six months without pay for misleading the public about his experiences covering the Iraq War.
NBC chief executive Steve Burke said Williams’s actions were inexcusable and jeopardized the trust he has built up with viewers during his decade as the network’s lead anchor. But he said Williams deserved a second chance.
Williams apologized last week for saying he was in a helicopter that was hit by a grenade while covering the Iraq War in 2003. Instead, another helicopter flying ahead of his was hit, and some veterans involved in the mission called him out on it. The swift public reaction had put NBC News on a crisis footing.
NBC News President Deborah Turness said in a memo that Williams “misrepresented” events that occurred while he was covering the war.
“It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues,” Turness said. “This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.”
Turness said Lester Holt would continue to substitute for Williams as anchor.
While NBC News avoids a backlash from Williams’s supporters, the action jeopardizes the network’s competitive position. “Nightly News” has been atop the ratings dating back to Tom Brokaw’s time in the anchor chair more than a decade ago.