Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay after lying about his part in an Iraq War mission, NBC announced on Tuesday night.
The full memo from NBC News President Deborah Turness reads:
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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the scandal:
1. The Suspension Comes After Williams Voluntarily Stood Down From His Evening Broadcasts
Williams has been in self-imposed exile from hosting NBC News’ Nightly News since it became clear the scandal wasn’t going to blow over.
The anchor has helmed the network’s flagship news program since 2004 and the ten-year anniversary of his role was celebrated with a round-up of his celebrated work in the field.
2. He Admitted Fabricating a Story About Being Shot Down in a Helicopter During The Iraq War in 2003
A storm of outrage greeted Williams’ apology last Wednesday when he broke off from the evening broadcast to admit he had wrongly claimed to be aboard a helicopter in 2003 that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. He was actually on board another helicopter and servicemen involved in the operation had complained about his empty boasts.
3. He is Under Investigation Over The Veracity of Other Stories Including His Claim he Saw Bodies Floating by His Hotel During Hurricane Katrina Floods
The disgraced NBC anchor has been accused of “misremembering” details he reported during his award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina when he claimed to have seen bodies floating past a hotel and insisted gangs had “overrun” the place.
Myra DeGersdorff, then General Manager of the Ritz-Carlton at the edge of the New Orleans French Quarter, told the Washington Post the quarter only got inches of flooding and said she didn’t see any bodies.
4. Ratings For NBC Nightly News Have dropped by 16%
On Friday night, when the scandal of the lying scandal had reached fever pitch, ABC World News Tonight with David Muir beat the NBC broadcast, a very rare triumph for the ABC news show that usually finishes in second place.
5. Doubts Growing Over Whether he Will Return as NBC Anchor
Williams was ranked 23rd on the list of America’s most trusted figures before the lying scandal broke. Now, according to research firm Marketing Arm, he has dropped to 835th.
If he manages to hold onto his anchor chair on his return, he faces an uphill struggle to hold onto it.
A survey from Variety found that 80% of those quizzed thought he should lose his job.