NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams suspended without pay

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NEW YORK (CNN) — Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay following revelations that he exaggerated tales from an Iraq War mission in 2003. Not even a week ago, Williams was forced to apologize on air for a story he’s told for years about a close-call on a helicopter mission in Iraq. And already the controversy has spawned dozens of questions. Williams has admitted to exaggerating his experience on an Iraq War mission in 2003.

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Williams apologized last Wednesday, both on Facebook and on “Nightly News,” but what he said raised more questions than answers, and the controversy swelled over the next three days.

As skepticism mounted over Williams’ claims about other reporting assignments — namely his coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — NBC News said Friday that it would conduct an internal investigation into the disputed accounts. Williams was once again in the anchor chair that night.

But on Saturday, Williams said he had become “too much a part of the news” and that he planned to step aside from the newscast for “the next several days.” Williams hunkered down even more on Sunday, canceling a scheduled appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

By Monday, his attorney was in crisis meetings at 30 Rockefeller Center, where Williams’ posters — celebrating his first-place status in the nightly news wars — hang on the walls.

‘Dateline’ anchor Lester Holt, who already serves as weekend anchor of “Nightly News,” will assume the anchor chair in Williams’ absence.

“Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together,” wrote NBC President Deborah Turness. “We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.”

Steve Burke asked me to share the following message, Turness wrote.

“This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts. 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.”

Here is the full memo from Turness:

We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months. The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately. We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News.

Our review, which is being led by Richard Esposito working closely with NBCUniversal General Counsel Kim Harris, is ongoing, but I think it is important to take you through our thought process in coming to this decision.

While on Nightly News on Friday, January 30, 2015, Brian misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. It then became clear that on other occasions Brian had done the same while telling that story in other venues. This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

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.

Steve Burke, Pat Fili and I came to this decision together. We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years. Millions of Americans have turned to him every day, and he has been an important and well-respected part of our organization.

As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision. Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action.

This has been a difficult time. But NBC News is bigger than this moment. You work so hard and dedicate yourselves each and every day to the important work of bringing trusted, credible news to our audience. Because of you, your loyalty, your dedication, NBC News is an organization we can — and should – all be proud of. We will get through this together.

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