NBC Anchor Brian Williams suspended for six months without pay
(NY Daily News) NEW YORK – This anchor is sunk — at least until next summer.
NBC brass slapped anchorman Brian Williams with a lengthy six-month suspension, without pay, on Tuesday, more than a week after he was caught lying about being attacked during the Iraq War.
“By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said in a memo to NBC News staffers. “His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.”
The suspension is “effective immediately,” NBC News president Deborah Turness said. “We let Brian know of our decision earlier today.”
Turness broke the news to “Nightly News” staffers in a tense meeting after the broadcast, an insider told the Daily News.
“The mood was grim,” the source said of the meeting.
Lester Holt will continue to substitute anchor the “Nightly News” while Williams is in the penalty box, although there has been talk of replacing Williams completely with a variety of NBC talent including Matt Lauer, or possibly his “Today” co-host, Savannah Guthrie.
Williams has come under heavy fire for exaggerating his experience while covering the Iraq War in 2003. For 12 years he has claimed to have been riding in a military helicopter that was hit with an enemy rocket-propelled grenade. Military crew members who were there have come forward to say he was not — which has thrown a shadow over much of his past reporting.
Turness blasted the tall tale in the memo, saying it was “completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position,” and that the anchor has “a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”
Turness said she, Burke, and NBC News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel “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.”
She added, “certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.”
NBC executives who met at Burke’s Manhattan home over the weekend were sharply divided over the anchor’s fate, sources said.
On one side were Turness and Fili-Krushel pushing for the suspension, and on the other were some who think the punishment was not harsh enough.
“He has no credibility left,” a top exec said. “How can anyone take him seriously now? This isn’t over.”
Williams declined to comment Tuesday.
ANNOUNCEMENT VIA DEBORAH TURNESS, PRESIDENT OF NBC NEWS
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.”