NBC said Thursday that Brian Williams would stay with the network but was being removed as the evening news anchor after he made numerous “inaccurate statements” about his experiences in the field.
Williams will join MSNBC as anchor of breaking news and special reports. The move is a humbling blow for him both professionally and financially. Williams will earn less money in his new role than he was as anchor of the “Nightly News,’’ according to an NBC executive with knowledge of the agreement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The person characterized it as “substantially’’ less money, but would not be more specific.
Under a contract Williams signed in December, he was reported to be making at least $10 million a year over five years.
Lester Holt, 56, an NBC veteran who has been filling in for Williams, will become chief anchor of the “Nightly News.’’ He is the first African-American to serve as solo anchor of a weekday evening newscast.
The network said Williams’ embellishments, discovered through an internal investigation, “did not for the most part occur on NBC News platforms or in the immediate aftermath of the news events, but rather on late-night programs and during public appearances, usually years after the news events in question.”
Williams, 56, will begin the new job in mid-August, which was when his six-month suspension was supposed to end. In his new job, he will also fill in on breaking news events for NBC when Holt is unavailable, the network said.
He said in a statement: “I’m sorry. I said things that weren’t true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I’m determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on ‘Nightly News,’ but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100 percent as he has always supported me. I am grateful for the chance to return to covering the news. My new role will allow me to focus on important issues and events in our country and around the world, and I look forward to it.”
The network announced that Williams sat down for an interview over the past two days with his colleague Matt Lauer, host of the “Today” show. The interview will be broadcast on “Today” on Friday morning and on the “Nightly News” on Friday evening.
“Brian now has the chance to earn back everyone’s trust,” Andrew Lack, who took over as NBC News chairman in March, said in a statement. “His excellent work over 22 years at NBC News has earned him that opportunity.”
NBCUniversal’s chief executive, Stephen B. Burke, added that the decision was “extensively analyzed and deliberated on by NBC.”
Of Holt, Lack said that “he’s performed remarkably well over the last few months under very tough circumstances.”
Williams was suspended without pay for six months on Feb. 10 after admitting that he exaggerated a story about a helicopter trip in Iraq in 2003. NBC followed with an internal investigation to discover if Williams had embellished other accounts. The findings of that investigation will not be made public, said an NBC executive briefed on the plans.