Brian Williams is back in the news. After being suspended by NBC for making a false claim about his coming under fire during the Iraq War, the former NBC Nightly News anchor will return to cable television this summer.
By all accounts Mr. Williams was demoted: he will be an anchor on MSNBC for breaking news and special reports. The new role comes with a salary reduction and starts with an apology tour, The New York Times reported.
Williams spent Thursday in Washington, D.C., and New York meeting with NBC staff. Then, in a sit-down interview with Matt Lauer for the Today show that aired Friday, Williams said publicly, “I told stories that were not true.”
In multiple public statements, that ultimately proved untrue, Williams claimed he had been in a helicopter in Iraq in 2003 that was shot at, CNN reported. The helicopter Williams was in, that he claimed was targeted by a rocket-propelled grenade, had in fact been an hour behind the attack.
He blamed his ego and described his suspension as “torture.”
Williams told Mr. Lauer that he went back through “20 years of public utterances.” He said he read the news stories about himself and didn’t like the person he was reading about, but said, “I am different as a result.”
Other journalists in recent memory have been blighted by scandal and returned to the profession in various capacities: Lara Logan’s fumbled report on the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya for "60 Minutes" led to a leave of absence from which she has returned; Benny Johnson, the political fabulist from Buzzfeed, was fired only to be hired by conservative-leaning Web site IJReview.com less than a year later.
But perhaps most like the Williams debacle is Dan Rather’s fall from grace.
Rather, formerly the anchor of the CBS Evening News, was the subject of a scathing review by CBS after he falsely reported for "60 Minutes" that former President George W. Bush received preferential treatment as a young Texas Air National Guard aviator during the Vietnam War.
Rather’s contract was not renewed by CBS and he ultimately landed in cable, where he anchors his own show for AXS-TV. In a Texas Monthly interview from 2012, he stood by his story on Bush.
Williams does not stand by the stories he now calls “untrue.”
Still, when pressed by Lauer as to whether he actually lied, Williams would not agree. “That is not what happened,” Williams said. “I said things that were wrong. I told stories that were wrong.”
“I am responsible for this,” Williams said. “I am sorry for what happened here. And I expect to be held to a different standard.”
Williams will return to an anchor desk at MSNBC in August. Lester Holt, who filled in for Williams on the "NBC Nightly News" desk during his suspension, is to become the news program's permanent anchor.