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Brian Williams Suspended for 6 Months; No Pay

Brian Williams Suspended for 6 Months; No Pay

Brian Williams, the embattled NBC news anchor whose credibility plummeted after he acknowledged exaggerating his role in a helicopter incident in Iraq, was suspended for six months without pay, the network said Tuesday night.

Lester Holt will continue to substitute for Mr. Williams now, the network said.

“This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position,” Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, said in an internal memo.

His departure culminated a rapid and startling fall from grace for Mr. Williams, who at age 55 was the head of the highest-rated evening news show, the winner of top industry accolades, a coveted speaker at dinners and panels and a frequent celebrity guest on entertainment shows.

On his nightly newscast on Feb. 4, Mr. Williams admitted that he had embellished his account of being on a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in 2003, and apologized to viewers for misleading them. In the days that followed he came under a barrage of criticism from military veterans, media commentators and viewers who claimed he had lost the trust so critical to a network news anchor.

Three days later he announced he was stepping aside temporarily from his show because he had become “too much a part of the news.” The news came after NBC started an investigation into Mr. Williams and his reporting from Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and any other news event that it deemed necessary to review.

Mr. Williams became the NBC “Nightly News” anchor in 2004, succeeding Tom Brokaw. As such, he was the latest in an esteemed lineage of evening news anchors, following Mr. Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, and before them Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

His departure is another blow for the NBC news division under its new chief, Ms. Turness. Since arriving in 2013, she has had to replace David Gregory as host of “Meet the Press” and fire, after only 10 weeks, an executive she hired to oversee the “Today” show.

NBCUniversal’s cable news channel, MSNBC, also has been saddled by sharply declining ratings. (Ms. Turness does not oversee MSNBC.)

More broadly, the perception of the network has taken a significant hit as the negative attention on Mr. Williams has dominated headlines and trended on social media in the past week.

In the face of these woes, Mr. Williams was a bright spot, a popular and trusted newsman whose show was drawing 9.3 million viewers a night and generating $200 million in annual advertising sales. He was also an ambassador for the network, a regular on late-night shows who entertained audiences with stories of his life and his career reporting the news.

His downfall began when he appeared at a New York Rangers game with an Iraq veteran in a tribute to a retiring command sergeant major. Mr. Williams suggested the sergeant had evacuated him from a dangerous situation in Iraq, after, saying “the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an R.P.G.,” referring to a rocket-propelled grenade. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”

The military publication “Stars and Stripes” was tipped off that Mr. Williams’s account was inaccurate and contacted Mr. Williams, who admitted that he was not on the helicopter that was forced down. “I would not have chosen to make this mistake,” Mr. Williams told “Stars and Stripes.” “I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”

New York Times


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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in Headlines, U.S. and tagged , , , , , .

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