NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – NBC Nightly News Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams on Tuesday was ordered suspended without pay for six months, effective immediately, following questions about his credibility.
As CBS2s Tracee Carrasco reported, the decision came less than a week after Williams admitted he exaggerated his experiences covering the Iraq War.
“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,” NBC News President Deborah Turness said in a statement Tuesday night.
“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,” Steve Burke, President and chief executive officer of NBCUniversal, said in a statement.
Williams apologized last week for falsely claiming that he was in helicopter that had been hit by a grenade while in Iraq in 2003 a week earlier during a “Nightly News” tribute to a veteran he had befriended during his trip. Before expressing his regrets on the air, Williams did so online and in an interview with the newspaper Stars & Stripes.
He speculated online that constant viewing of video showing him inspecting the damaged helicopter “and the fog of memory over 12 years, made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”
His story had morphed through the years.
Shortly after the incident, Williams had described on NBC how he was traveling in a group of helicopters forced down in the Iraq desert. On the ground, he learned the Chinook in front of him “had almost been blown out of the sky;” he showed a photo of it with a gash from a rocket-propelled grenade.
The NBC crew and military officials accompanying them spent three days in the desert, kept aground by a sandstorm.
But in a 2008 blog post, Williams said his helicopter had come under fire from what appeared to be Iraqi farmers with RPGs. He said a helicopter in front of his had been hit.
Then, in a 2013 appearance on David Letterman’s “Late Show,” Williams said that two of the four helicopters he was traveling with had been hit by ground fire “including the one I was in.”
In the wake of the controversy, the network launched an internal investigation.
Williams announced over the weekend he would step down temporarily, saying it had “become painfully apparent” to him that his actions made him too much a part of the news.
NBC Universal said it is continuing the probe into Williams’ statements. It was unclear late Tuesday what will happen after that six-month suspension.
Lester Holt will continue to sub in for Williams in his absence.
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