- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NBC News anchor Brian Williams was suspended Tuesday for six months without pay after admitting that he wrongly reported being under fire during the Iraq war.

NBC News president Deborah Turness announced the decision to staff Tuesday night in a memo.

“We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as managing editor and anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months,” Ms. Turness said. “The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately.”

She said Mr. Williams was informed of the decision earlier Tuesday and that Lester Holt will continue to substitute as anchor of the network’s flagship evening news program.

In addition to Mr. Williams’ false claims about his helicopter being forced down by enemy fire in Iraq, Ms. Turness said she and other executives at Comcast-NBCUniversal had “concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.” The memo was first reported by Politico.

Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, is quoted in the Turness memo as saying Mr. Williams’ actions “are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.” But he also said Mr. Williams “deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.”

The network is conducting an internal investigation of Mr. Williams’ other reporting over the years to determine whether any other embarrassing episodes exist. The problems came to light when Mr. Williams on Jan. 30 misrepresented events while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003.

As anchor of the Nightly News, Mr. Williams has been leading in the ratings consistently.

“This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts,” Mr. Burke said in the memo. “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.”

In December, Mr. Williams signed a new five-year contract worth a reported $10 million a year, making the suspension an effective fine of $5 million.

On his newscast on Feb. 4, Mr. Williams apologized for embellishing his account of being embedded on a military helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in 2003.

His erroneous story was brought to light by Stars and Stripes, which contacted veterans who had been on the mission and said Mr. Williams was nowhere near the helicopter that was brought down.

A storm of criticism followed on social media which has yet to subside, imperiling the career of the 55-year-old anchorman.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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