Tags: Brian Williams | nightly | news | NBC

Brian Williams Suspended Himself From NBC Nightly News Broadcast

Saturday, 07 February 2015 04:35 PM

Brian Williams said he will take a break "for the next several days" from "NBC Nightly News," the network's flagship evening newscast, in the wake of his disclosure this week that he had made false claims about a 2003 newsgathering expedition in Iraq.

Lester Holt, who has anchored the weekend editions of both "Nightly News" and morning-show "Today," will step in as a substitute, Williams said in a memo to NBC News staff released by the NBCUniversal-owned unit Saturday afternoon.

Williams made the decision Saturday, according to a person familiar with the situation, feeling that the intense scrutiny bubbling around the issue would distract staffers at "NBC Nightly News" from doing their jobs. In the last few minutes of his Friday-night newscast, Williams had told viewers that he expected to see them again on Monday's edition.

"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," the newscaster said in the memo. "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."

NBC News said Friday that it had begun to look into Williams' false claims about being on a Chinook helicopter in Iraq that was brought down by rocket fire. In an interview with Stars & Stripes this week, Williams acknowledged that, as he had originally reported on "Dateline" in 2003, his helicopter actually followed one that had been grounded. In the years since, he has occasionally embellished the story to make it seem as if he were on the downed copter. He even told the story to David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show."

The NBC News vetting is being led by Richard Esposito, senior executive producer of investigations at NBC News, according to the person familiar with the situation. This person characterized the effort as a "fact-checking process" and said Esposito is not a member of the "Nightly" staff and, as such, does not report to Williams. This person said NBC News would fact-check "legitimate claims" about various statements Williams has made about his reporting.

NBC News continues to support Williams, this person said. The length of his absence from the "Nightly" newscast remains undetermined, this person said.

Rivals at ABC News and CBS News will likely watch this period carefully. NBC's "Nightly News" has remained largely unassailable, able to fend off recent challenges from ABC's "World News." Under new anchor David Muir, the ABC broadcast has made strides in the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming, people between 25 and 54. Meanwhile, CBS continues to burnish its evening newscast as a place for more serious reporting and has placed a distinct emphasis on having its correspondents report from overseas hot spots.

In Holt, NBC has a veteran who logs plenty of hours on its behalf. Holt is principal anchor of "Dateline," co-anchor of the weekend editions of "Today" and "NBC Nightly News" and is the primary substitute for Williams when he is either reporting from the field or off duty. Holt spent 19 years with various stations owned by CBS, then joined MSNBC in 2000. Holt shifted to NBC News in 2005.

© 2018 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Brian Williams has issued a statement announcing that he is removing himself as anchor of NBC Nightly News. Lester Holt will assume Williams' duties at NBC....
Brian Williams, nightly, news, NBC
Saturday, 07 February 2015 04:35 PM
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