Brian Williams, the embattled anchor of the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” has taken himself off-the-air.
Here’s the announcement Williams made earlier today, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015:
“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.”
Yesterday, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, the New York Daily News broke the story that NBC News has asked that “Richard Esposito [be] assigned to investigate the embattled “NBC Nightly News” anchor for lying about dodging danger while reporting in Iraq,” according to sources.
Later, The New York Times reported yesterday, “The ‘fact-checking’ inquiry, confirmed on Friday by several people in the network’s news division, will review not only the Iraq incident but also Mr. Williams’s reporting during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as any other issues that arise during the investigation.
“Richard Esposito, the head of NBC’s investigative unit, will lead the inquiry. Mr. Esposito does not report to Mr. Williams, who holds the positions of both anchor and managing editor for ‘NBC Nightly News.’
“In a staff memo on Friday, Deborah Turness, the president of NBC News, said that the network had ‘a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired.’”
In a separate but related development yesterday, Brian Stelter of CNN wrote on the CNN/Money website, “The pilot I interviewed on Thursday about Brian Williams is no longer standing by his story. That pilot, Rich Krell, told me he was flying the helicopter Williams was on in Iraq — an account now contradicted by several other soldiers.
“On Friday morning, Krell told me that “the information I gave you was true based on my memories, but at this point I am questioning my memories.”
Stelter notes that previously Krell had told him the following:
“He said the ‘first bird’ was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, contradicting what Williams said as recently as last Friday, that Williams was aboard the helicopter that was hit.
“But Krell said all three of the helicopters came under ‘small arms fire,’ lending support to the stories Williams told over the years about being ‘under fire’ in Iraq.”
Thus Stelter says of an earlier piece he wrote about what Krell had told him, “Bottom line: this pilot is revising his story – and, because of that, I’m revising mine.
“What initially looked like an account that supported some of Brian Williams’ war story — that he came ‘under fire’ that day — no longer appears to be true.”
Here is Brian Williams’ original report from 2003 about what happened during that helicopter trip: [Update at 8:00 p.m., PT on 2-9-15: NBC News appears to have now disabled this link. We urge them to reinstate it. We have found a complete version of the Williams original report on YouTube, but the audio is slightly out-of-sync. Click here to see it. We hope that NBC does not demand that YouTube take it down.]