Brian Williams, a former NBC Nightly News anchor and current host of “The 11th Hour” on MSNBC announced Tuesday that he’s leaving after spending almost three decades with the network, reports noted.
“As an award-winning journalist and anchor at MSNBC and NBC News, Brian Williams has informed us he would like to take the coming months to spend time with his family,” noted Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC, in a memo late Tuesday night. “He will be signing off from The 11th Hour at the end of the year.”
The broadcast journalist’s contract with MSNBC is expiring next month, but his announced departure comes as his and other programs on MSNBC are experiencing their lowest ever ratings in October, Fox News reported.
“Following much reflection, and after 28 years with the company, I have decided to leave NBC upon the completion of my current contract in December,” Williams said Tuesday in a statement sent to The New York Times. “I have been truly blessed. I have been allowed to spend almost half of my life with one company. NBC is a part of me and always will be.”
Williams did not say what his next move would be professionally, or even if there he is looking for another on-air broadcast gig. But he did tease a return.
“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another,” he noted to the Times. “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere.”
Williams, 62, harmed his career and reputation after admitting in a 2015 broadcast that he had lied about coming under sniper fire during reporting from Iraq in 2003. Specifically, he was not truthful when he said a helicopter he was riding in was fired upon and forced to land.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams admitted at the time.
After military publication Stars & Stripes broke the story, Williams told the outlet, “I would not have chosen to make this mistake.
“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another,” he added.
In 2003, Williams did not report the incident, but he first lied about it in 2013, then retold the false story a week before he was outed in 2015.
“We were in some helicopters. What we didn’t know was, we were north of the invasion,” Williams told then-late-night host David Letterman in the 2013 interview.
“We were the northernmost Americans in Iraq. We were going to drop some bridge portions across the Euphrates so the Third Infantry could cross on them. Two of the four helicopters were hit, by ground fire, including the one I was in, RPG and AK-47.”
Two years later, he recounted the false story again at a New York Rangers hockey game while paying tribute to a retired U.S. Army soldier who provided security for helicopters grounded in Iraq during the 2003 invasion.
“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams, then anchor of the No 1 nightly news program for a decade, said. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded, and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”
His story was refuted by members of the 159th Aviation Regiment who were on board a Chinook transport helicopter that was struck by a pair of rockets and small arms fire. In interviews with Stars & Stripes, they said Williams wasn’t anywhere near the helicopter that had been struck nor two other Chinooks in the same formation that took enemy fire.
“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, the flight engineer on Williams’ chopper, told the outlet.
In the fallout, Williams was suspended for six months from his on-air duties and demoted; he returned as the late-night anchor of his current program on the left-wing network.
“Until fairly recently, the network has relied on Williams’ reporting for critical breaking news events and election coverage. Viewers were surprised to find Williams notably absent from MSNBC’s Virginia coverage earlier this month, with Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace hosting instead,” Fox News noted in a separate report.
In recent months, Williams has aligned himself with The Lincoln Project, a discredited organization founded by former Republican operatives in opposition to then-President Donald Trump. He has also regularly lashed out at Republican political leaders.
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