NBC News' Brian Williams Takes Leave of Absence, Scraps Letterman Visit

Brian Williams Suspended

In the wake of the recent controversy regarding his coverage of the Iraq War, Brian Williams announced Saturday that he will temporarily leave the anchor desk at NBC Nightly News.

According to various reports, including our sister site Deadline‘s, the Nightly News managing editor released the following memo to his staff:

In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions.

As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us.

UPDATE: Williams also has scrapped a planned Feb. 12 visit to The Late Show With David Letterman.

The controversy surrounding Williams began during a Jan. 30 broadcast of Nightly News, when he falsely claimed his helicopter was hit by a grenade in March 2003 as he covered the Iraq War.

Williams apologized for his claims on the air last Wednesday. Since then, the network has begun an internal investigation into his coverage of the war and other major events, including Hurricane Katrina.

NBC News President Deborah Turness released a memo on Friday, stating, “We have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired.”

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82 Comments
  1. SJ says:

    I honestly don’t know what the big deal is. So he fibbed a little bit. Why are people blowing this so out of proportion?

    • Lucifer says:

      He didn’t “fip a little bit.” He flat out lied.

      • SJ says:

        So? He wanted to be a hero so he lied. I still don’t get why people are offended. I guess righteous indignation is the new black…

        • David4 says:

          Because our soldiers fought and die for the country and he tries to make himself seem like one of them just because he wants to seem all high and mighty. It’s disgusting.

        • Jeri says:

          It’s because his job is to tell people what’s going on in the world. He’s paid to be trustworthy. He’s paid to be honest. Bald faced lying negates that–it means that every single news story he tells is now less likely to believed.

        • leia says:

          it’s not indignation it’s that a man who we supposedly trust to give us the truth about the news lied. He’s supposed to report facts not fiction.

        • Rob Horine says:

          That lie smears all of NBC News. Do you really think, deep down people will take Williams seriously ever again?

          And what about the bosses? What about Tom Brokaw (who’s word is law in the news division)? If Tom says he’s gone, he’s gone.

        • Abby says:

          He has a career that it pretty much predicated on him telling people the truth. The news is truth, not “I wanted to be a hero so I lied.”

  2. Drew says:

    What is the point of having him there? If they had any credibility at all, he would have been fired by now.

    • Marilyn Vinson says:

      If Brian Williams leaves NBC News, I leave NBC. Do the right thing NBC and stand by your man. He deserves that for what he has given you.

      • Lucifer says:

        Yeah, he’s given them a major embarrassment because he clearly lies to get ratings.

      • Kylee says:

        What are you talking about? He deserves to be there after lying to the public? I come from a long line of veterans and clearly you have no concept what it means to lay your life on the line for other people’s freedom. We shouldn’t be shocked why the world is in th state it is; there is no right and wrong anymore. Just whatever makes you feel good.

    • Meredith says:

      I’m really disappointed in him, but if every journalist who didn’t tell the truth was canned, there wouldn’t be any of them left. Look at MSNBC and Fox. Half-truths and outright lies abound.

  3. WonderWaage says:

    For pucks sake… A complete overreaction

  4. topoopon says:

    He didn’t lie about a news story or even about another figure. He inflated a story from his past. If he worked at FOXNews all he would have had
    to say is “I’ve heard stories about…” and that would have covered his but.(t)

    • Lucifer says:

      Please, he lied. And if he worked at Fox, everyone would be demanding he be fired including most media outlets.

      • jj says:

        didn’t see anyone at fox news fired over the false paris no go zone maps which imo was a MUCH bigger deal

        • Lucifer says:

          The reporting on “no go zones” in Paris goes as far back as 2002 from The New York Times. Fox was really not saying anything new, they just happened to be the ones saying it and the mayor of Paris jumped at the chance to claim it was a lie since it came from them. But by all means, keep getting it your information from Jon Stewart and tumblr.

          • B says:

            Oh please.. If anything they are urban zones defined by their low socioeconomic status which newsflash is something that exists in the us as well and if we’re playing the ‘you shouldn’t get your news from’ game than you shouldn’t get your international news from any major us network, they are all painfully biased

          • Lucifer says:

            B, I was not defending or supporting the claims of “no go zones”, just that Fox news was by no means the first to report on them. And I agree, there are plenty of poverty-stricken areas within the Western world that anyone with a brain knows to stay out of. Also, my jab at news sources was that most are bias, but people tend to think only Fox is because they are conservative. Nearly every news outlet is at least a bit bias, which is why I do not directly trust everything until I do my own research. Tumblr, if you might not be aware of, is full of the most bias and misleading “news” stories that people believe without question because it suits their agenda. It unfortunately is poisoning the minds of my generation and the younger ones as well.

          • jj says:

            they produced a map and said that islamic terrorist groups openly recruited on the streets….but by all means continue to defend their propaganda.

      • David4 says:

        He believes the planet is over 6,000 years old and in evolution, aka he has a brain so he couldn’t ever work for Fox News.

        • edd says:

          so him not beleiving in god makes him inteligent? hmmm interesting…. you’re right, believing that theres no God makes sense. all the complexity of our lives and being was all just one big mistake. Hooray to living a life that means absolutely nothing because theres no point to it! hip hip hooray!

          • CK says:

            You do know that people can believe in the age of the earth and evolution and still believe in God, right? Those things aren’t mutually exclusive.

          • DL says:

            Yeah, what CK said. I believe in God, but I don’t believe in Creationism, or the literal truth of the Bible at all. I still feel plenty fulfilled and live a meaningful life.

          • John NYC says:

            Believing in geology. and biology doesn’t equate to NOT beleiving in a god. Probably quite the opposite for most people.

            Bishop Usher was far from “God”, just a man with way too much time on his hands. Counting every “begat” in the bible? Yowza.

    • Drew says:

      Yeah, let’s make a comment about Fox News and not the guy who made sh** up and called it a news story.

    • Abby says:

      Really good call by NBC, though this is likely to blow over since it’s not actually a crime. Just pathetic. He inflated a story from someone else’s past, then said he was there and claims he told the story so many times it was like he forgot that he wasn’t. Most psychoanalysts would consider that to be a sign of mental disturbance; pathological liars often believe their own stories. It’s such a strange story – he’s otherwise a likable, bankable figure at NBC, made his career by being the guy in the newsroom the night Princess Diana happened to die, so he became a go-to anchor literally overnight, but now it’s clear he was just as green, naive, and stupid as some other journalists who dream that THEY are the star telling people the news, not just that they are the reporters of much more important content than themselves.

  5. Lysh says:

    I’m such a huge fan of Brian that this is all disappointing and a little heartbreaking. And a hiatus just sounds like the beginning of being fired. But I understand it if Nightly News wants to keep their credibility and Lester Holt is a fine replacement.

    • Abby says:

      This sentiment is exactly why he won’t be fired, in my opinion, even if he should. He’s one of America’s most liked and respected newsmen, always tests astronomically high and is a cornerstone at NBC…they want him to go away for a while and hope it blows over.

  6. RMR says:

    Bet he was fired by NBC. We won’t see Brian on any network again. Bye!

  7. luke says:

    Haha, what I tool!

  8. BrightLight says:

    But will Lester Holt slow jam the news?

    It makes me wonder that if Brian would have not chosen to show the tribute from the hockey game, would this had even come to light? I know people have spoken about this not actually happening for years, but if he hadn’t willingly shown this footage, I bet he’d still be on the air.

    • Drew says:

      That is the annoying part of any news program. None of them are beyond this. They all make things up or embellish. The whole system is corrupt, so you have to really do homework if you want to know the truth about anything.

  9. Terri says:

    If Brian Williams is permanently taken off the air I will stop watching NBC NEWS AND TODay Show!!

    • billybobby says:

      It was an OUTRIGHT plain SIMPLE LIE!!!

      I dont’ understand how people can so easily right this OBSCENE example of LYING.

      Unless…… Politics before truth and honor. Hmm….BC, HRC, BO.

  10. Good call on his part. Guy’s covered a lot of events and put his body through hell, he may have genuinely not realized he was lying about events. Sometimes details of events can bleed together and such and when you finally realize you got it wrong it can be freaky. Still it’s of course also possible for whatever reason he embellished stories, creating lies. Either way time off is probably a good idea.

  11. Pat Hunter says:

    12 years ago , during a major undeclared war and wow! he thought his helo was hit by an rpg!! So that means every story he has ever covered must be investigated. How well does anyone clicking their tongues and pointing fingers remember every thing done or said 12 days ago, much less years. Whether one hit
    or didn’t changes nothing! So PC and childish!

    • Drew says:

      He has been claiming it for over a decade, long before it was just a fuzzy memory. And there are now reports of other stories that he lied about.

    • Lucifer says:

      Apparently it’s “PC” to want a journalist, who is informing the public on serious topics, to not outwardly lie about being in a helicopter attacked by an rpg or seeing a body floating down a flooded street.

  12. Ed says:

    this is flat out dumb…#FreeBrianWilliams!

  13. JA says:

    My, my–all the pearl clutching and righteous indignation! I personally would love to see everyone demanding “Off with his head”, have their entire life scrutinized minute by minute and hour by hour and see how many “errors in judgement, fibs and lies” spill out. Of course, everyone else is absolutely pristine and pure and has never, ever done anything wrong. Yeah, right………I love the smell of hypocrites.

    • Drew says:

      Nobody is saying to throw him in jail. People are saying that he should be fired from the job that he has lacks the professional ethics to perform. He is a journalist. This is his career. His ONE job is to report the truth. Do you honestly trust a news man who you know is a liar? And you seriously have the nerve to call out everyone else for wanting a little ethics in their journalism?
      This is the problem with the world. If you don’t like the news, just make it up and believe it is true. Unbelievable.

      • JA says:

        “And you seriously have the nerve to call out everyone else for wanting a little ethics in their journalism?” Oh yes, please tell me all about how much “ethics” there are in today’s journalism–why, almost all of those “stellar” journalists out there are the new Walter Cronkites of today. Excuse me a moment, while I wait for the tsunami of eye rolls to abate. I certainly hope whatever job you hold doesn’t rely on perfection, cause if you ever slip up, there will be massive calls for you to be fired, because your “professional ethics” have been compromised. Oh wait, you obviously are one of those people who never make mistakes, never done anything slightly shady and can part water with a mere wave of you hand. OMG!! God is posting now, everybody stop and listen–go back to your pearl clutching and disdain, if you are looking for unbelievable, look in the mirror…..SMDH

        • Drew says:

          You really can’t see what you sound like, can you? Asking for integrity from a reporter shouldn’t be like asking honesty from a lawyer. It isn’t some mythical fairy tale. I absolutely agree that this is a problem throughout the media system. That doesn’t mean that we have to accept it. Lies shouldn’t be reported as truth.

          And for the record, if I went to work and couldn’t perform the one task that people asked of me, I would expect to be fired. This man’s job is to report facts. That is the entire job description.

    • billybobby says:

      I never LIED about being hit while in a helicopter OR that I saw a dead body floating in the street.

      ARE YOU KIDDING?

      Put away your transparent attempt at righteous indignation. It’s WAAY too far gone. People are NOT THAT stupid.

    • Marilyn Vinson says:

      Love it. Bravo!

  14. wil says:

    Personally I like him. If you are so offended by what happened, change channels but I am assuming most of the people upset already watch Fox news and if telling a lie is cause to be fired, Fox would be off the air.

    • Drew says:

      What does Fox News have to do with this? How brainwashed do you have to be to read this story and get mad at Fox News? Stop being a sheep.
      (And no, I don’t watch Fox News. I don’t even have cable)

    • billybobby says:

      When ALL ELSE fails bring up Fox News. First sign you have no argument to counter.

      He LIED over and over and over and over about being hit while in a helicopter and seeing a dead body float in the street!!!!!

      That’s not just a “error”. AND yes, I’ve never lied like that. I feel pretty comfortable about it.

      I wish everyone else here did too. Sad commentary about the people here.

  15. awnb95 says:

    Always liked Brian Williams. He’s been my favorite news person since I first saw him hasn’t quite tarnished my image of him yet, but we’ll see what happens after the investigation.

    • Harry_Wild says:

      The investigation is just a stall tactic so that the PR firm has time to turnaround his image!

      How stupid are you?

      The Vets that went public number in around a dozen and his six repeated of the incidents of the chopper situation are on tape. It black and white.

      Brian Williams has admitted guilt that he twisted the truth!

  16. Dan Navarro says:

    How in the world will we ever trust Brian Williams again?

  17. Harry_Wild says:

    Rumor has it that Brian Williams will still be around and NBC News has hire an NYC PR firm to get his image back on track so he can finish up his contract that calls for $25 million a year plus bonus. He got three years left! I sure he is now with the PR firm plotting strategies and shooting spots that help his image!

    They thing they can turnaround public opinion with positive PR and over time the public will overlook and forget! We will see!

  18. TV Gord says:

    The destruction of yet another person whom I have admired. Stepping away from the anchor desk is the first honorable thing he has done since his lies (mistakes, he says) came to light this week. He makes it sound as though he’ll be back. Sadly, I think that’s another mistake, Bri.

    I was an occasional viewer of the NBC Nightly News while he was anchor, but not a regular viewer. I mostly quit the U.S. nightly news broadcasts (I’m Canadian) after “uncle” Walter left, but I enjoyed Brian in his appearances on entertainment shows from Letterman to SNL to those mashups Jimmy Fallon will likely never do again to his playful mutual animosity with Jon Stewart. Whenever there was breaking news at any time during the day or night, I would routinely go to NBC to see if he was the one telling us what’s what. He was my go-to guy for American news.

    I came to really enjoy his style when he launched Rock Center, the outstanding but low-rated prime time news magazine he hosted a few years ago. His easy blend of news and humor appealed to me, partly because I could always count on the fact that his occasional humor was not at the expense of the news. The revelations of the past week have left everything he has done with a bad taste in my mouth now.

    Moving forward, I see two scenarios:

    1) He will never be at the anchor desk again. He will retire in ignominy (the way that asshat Dan Rather should have, but that’s another story), and that’s that. That’s a damn shame, but he has no one to blame but himself, which is even sadder, because he didn’t have to lie to gain respect. He already had it from people like me and millions of others.

    2) He will lay low until the dust settles, and he will return to work and keep his head low (as far as doing Letterman or allowing himself to be gently ribbed by Fallon). If this is what happens, I will have lost respect not only for him, but for NBC News, as well.

    If this reads to you the way an obituary would, it’s not intentional, but that’s the way it reads to me, as well. I really didn’t mean this to be such a dire (or lengthy) post, but this is about more than Brian Williams to me. This is about trusting anything, anyone. This one hurts.

  19. Ethel says:

    I have always liked and admired Brian Williams. He fibbed, he admitted it and let’s move on. I am sure if it was any other anchor on news, no one would care, but it is NBC which takes a lot of heat from people for their political views. Let him take a 6 month leave of absence, and then come back and move on. However, if the internal investigation shows he has misrepresented more than this one issue…..he has to go. Of course, this is NBC and we all know how they treated Ann Curry.

  20. linda says:

    What’s going on? With Brian Williams??

  21. Scott Tanner says:

    Hi Brian I have watched you for several years and have enjoyed every broadcast.
    I think through all of our careers we all make mistakes and I personally am here as a veiwer and friend.
    I think you will come back to the air and shine as you always have.
    Sincerely,
    Scott Tanner
    Photographer

    • billybobby says:

      Yup, we all make mistakes…

      Like lie about being in a helicopter that was shot down.
      And lie about seeing a body floating face down in the street.

      Yup, just “little” “mistakes” we’ve ALL made.

      Gee Scott, have you made “mistakes” like this? I hope not.

      • John NYC says:

        Just to be clear he never said his helicopter was shot down. So since you just lied you’ll be leaving your current job?

        Good for you.

  22. frustratedwithbadtvshows says:

    Disappointed in Brian Williams! When you lose your credibility, it’s hard to get it back!

  23. TK says:

    I will not ever be watching Brian Williams again. How can I trust he is telling me the truth. I can’t and if NBC keeps him it speaks volumes about the people that work there and the network.

  24. Harry_Wild says:

    My comment of three paragraphs got deleted; so here is a summary of it:

    Brian Williams will be back after a polishing of his image by a PR firm that I will not name now since that the reason it got axed and Mr. Williams will go on to full fill his contract with NBC! Most expert think that Mr. Williams will be able to still keep his job and public will overlook this matter! I think the PR firm will help and over time a month or so; it is forgotten!

  25. Jj says:

    Guess it’s time for him to work for Fox ‘News’. He’ll fit right in.

  26. The Beach says:

    I’ve always enjoyed Brian Williams, both on the news and on talk shows where he is clever and funny. But he has several big problems now: He has ticked off the military. Then he made things worse for himself in the post interviews by using words like “misremembered” and “conflate”. Plus, he has become a joke on social media with people posting pics of him with Neil Armstrong on the moon and other mock-ups. Once you have become a public laughingstock it’s hard to get your reputation back. Just ask President Ford after Chevy Chase lampooned his tripping and bumbling over and over again on SNL.

  27. Angela says:

    You people are so quick to judge . You have NO idea what he really thought or what is really going on, you only know what the news has reported. You should all shut your mouths

    • Pat Hunter says:

      Loyalty does not exist in the world of tv news, does it? Mr. Williams laurels are only as good as the ratings. If anyone in coporate expects this malarkey to fly, they are as ignorant as they percieve the American people to be. I support Brian Williams, not NBC.

  28. Ro says:

    I agree with Drew. Call me old-school, but I prefer integrity in a news journalist. Give me someone like Walter Cronkite or Edward R Murrow over a ‘bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at 5’ (another old-school reference) anytime. It’s too bad that sensationalism and ratings have become more important that journalistic integrity.

  29. CountryQueen says:

    I can’t believe the people saying it’s not a big deal! He lied! He’s a trusted anchor. That is a major no-no. He isn’t on FOX or MSNBC or any of the other channels that are mostly commentary with news sprinkled in – he’s the major anchor, for a major news network, that is suppose to bring us news. He is just like any liar. He probably started small, making events seem more extreme than they are, and the next thing you know, he’s in the helicopter that’s shot down. That’s how lies work. They start small, and grow and grow. Says a lot about you as a person if you think that lying is OK, especially for a person in a position of trust. Honesty should be a core value of life, not just for the news people.

  30. CountryQueen says:

    For those screaming about how FOX news should be taken off the air if this is such a big deal – DISH network did pull the liars off the air! So there you go.

  31. ANNIE SCHAFFER says:

    ONLY GOD KNOW’S WHAT WAS RUNNING THROUGH HIS MIND,THERE IS A LOT OF WHAT IF!I I WAS IN THAT HELICPTER?OR MAYBE A FLASH OF DEATH,WILL I SEE MY FAMILY MY WIFE, CHILDREN, AND WHEN ALL OF THESE THOUGHT’S ARE RUNNING FULL SPEED IT’S VERY HARD TO ERASE LIKE YOUR BRAIN,SELF CONCIOUS TAKE’S OVER,LIKE SAYING ONE THING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH BEFORE YOUR BRAIN PUT’S IT IN GEAR.THINK AGAIN PEOPLE THIS SHOULD HAVE NOT GOTTEN THIS FA R.MAYBE JUST MAYBE I WISH BRIAN WOULD HAVE TAKEN A SICK DAY JUST TO COLLECT HIMSELF.I LOVE YOU BRIAN WILLAM’S EVERY NITE I SAY GOOD NITE HONEY SAFE HOME. LONG TIME BIG FAN OF BRIAN WILLAM. Ps.LOVED YOUR DAUGHTER IN PETER PAN…..MY GRANDAUGHTER AT AGE 8 PLAYED TINKER BELL.

  32. concerned says:

    He has lost all credibility and should not be allowed to return. All his past reporting is now questionable, and certainly anything he has to say in the future will be questionable. Get a new anchor.

  33. Gretchen Breeden says:

    Who hasn’t been caught up in there job when living it. Brian Williams is the best part of my day. Please leave him alone and let him return to his show.

  34. Laurent Martin says:

    Name one anchor who hasn’t stretched the truth.

  35. Prince RMP says:

    People should put themselves in the shoes of Mr. Williams, if one has ever been in a war zone they will understand. Maybe he was in that chopper when they heard things bouncing off it and little on he heard or saw explosion underneath or below the chopper. So he could have felt or thought in his head that those were grenades bouncing off the chopper. Brian Williams has been very transparent in his reporting, so let us all as viewer forgive him. His statement could have been true but only that there is no proof to authenticate his claim yet. NBC News please bring Mr. Williams back we missed him. America is a Nation of second chances, therefore kindly forgive him NBC.

    • dan P says:

      I’m all for forgiveness if someone makes a mistake. But when you are paid $10,000,000 a year to present FACTS to viewers, your main asset is your believability. This is not “misremembering” it is self aggrandizing lying in an attempt to be not just a journalist but an interesting celebrity. Add to that the multiple lies over more than a decade. NBC needs believability for $10 million, not Williams because he tells good self aggrandizing stories. This may sound harsh, but his “apology” did him in for me because even his apology was a lie. You see, he said he made a mistake recalling an event 12 years old, but in fact he had been telling that story over and over to anyone that would listen so it was not like some old memory just dredged up. Plus, what about the Katrina floating body lie, that was not 12 years ago. And what about the saving a puppy lie, no wait, TWO puppies, NO wait, three puppies …..

  36. Beverly J. says:

    I believe Brian Williams is an excellent journalist and should resume his position. He knows how to deliver a story, be it true or not. I feel that he should be checked for Munchausen Syndrome, a legitimate excuse for his untruths.

  37. maryelen mccaskill says:

    ok the 6 months is done I and a lot of others want him back as anchor please ,,he is a great guy for the job ,,,so he fibbed ,,no biggie others have I am sure let it be please