NBC Suspends Brian Williams for Six Months: Multiple Mistruths Suspected
After a week of nonstop media attention and scrutiny, NBC announced that it has suspended beleaguered “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay. Williams’ removal from the anchor chair follows his on-air admission last Wednesday that he fabricated a story about being in a helicopter that was shot down in Iraq in 2003. The suspension is yet another blow to Williams’ legacy, sullying the reputation of a media figure previously considered one of the most trusted names in news.
NBC News president Deborah Turness announced the decision in a statement that included harsh words about the anchor’s exaggeration. “This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position,” Turness wrote. “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.”
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke also didn’t mince words in his criticism of Williams, going so far as to take the anchor to task for also tarnishing NBC’s image as a trustworthy news source. “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," Burke said.
The suspension comes amidst an NBC investigation of Williams' claims that Turness says is “ongoing,” and suggests the network may have uncovered more lies Williams may have told. "In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field," Turness said.
Several sources have questioned whether Williams “misremembered”—or rather, invented—his tales of harrowing experiences, including witnessing bodies floating in flood waters, getting dysentery and watching roving packs of lawless street gangs, during his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, others are now calling into doubt Williams’ story about being held up at gunpoint by a robber in the 1970s while he sold Christmas trees in Red Bank, New Jersey, near his hometown.
A report in New York Magazine suggests Williams' falsehoods are even more extensive. According to the magazine, NBC has "a dossier" filled to bursting with documentation of Williams' lies over the years. The magazine also suggests that Williams's reputation for stretching the truth had long preceded him at the network, and that Tom Brokaw once suggested he "stick to the facts."
Lester Holt, who has filled in for Williams since he took a voluntary leave of absence last weekend, will continue to anchor the news during the suspension period. Although there’s speculation about whether or not this is the end of Williams's broadcasting career, Burke seemed to suggest the anchor might return once the dust settles. “He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him,” the CEO said.
Of course, Williams' reappearance will likely be determined by whether or not NBC, or any other media outlets, discovers any more tall tales.
At least a few outlets suggested Williams might have a career in the satirical news business, perhaps taking over for Jon Stewart, who announced he was departing from the "Daily Show" last night.
After his apology for his false account of the Iraq incident last week, Williams fell from his spot as the 23rd most trusted person in the country to number 825, according to a recent poll.