Three days after he removed himself as news anchor of NBC Nightly News, the network president announced Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay. Williams, who falsely represented his experiences covering the Iraq War in 2003, served both as anchor and the managing editor of the evening program. Deborah Turness, president of NBC News, sent a memo to employees Tuesday that stated Williams' suspension would be effective immediately. Referring to Williams' misrepresentation, she wrote:
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.
The decision was made by Turness; Steve Burke, CEO and president of NBC Universal; and Pat Fili, chairman of the NBCUniversal News Group, the memo stated. Williams has been with NBC for 22 years, and the statement stressed that Williams has done a lot of good work during his time with the network, but the executives felt the six-month suspension was the "appropriate and proportionate" decision.
Soon after it was discovered that Williams' story about being in a helicopter that was gunned down was false, other accounts of his were called into question. His Hurricane Katrina claims, a story about being robbed at gunpoint, and Hezbollah rocket fire statements were three of Williams' stories that were under investigation.
Lester Holt, who has been substituting for Williams while he has been away, will continue to act as the main anchor for NBC Nightly News. In the memo to NBC employees, Turness addressed all the workers at the network, stating:
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.
According to the memo, Burke asked Turness to include a statement from him as well. He wrote that it was a painful period for those involved, but that he appreciated everyone's patience as the network worked to figure out all of the facts. Burke wrote:
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.
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