Article by Katherine Burek | esPResso Committee Member
In the last week, one of broadcast’s most notable faces, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, has found himself caught in a difficult situation. The reporter is being investigated for exaggerating the truth in a past broadcast about his time as a war reporter in Iraq.
Since 2004 Brian Williams has greeted viewers each night on the “NBC Nightly News” with his opening line: “On the broadcast tonight…” Williams has become a trusted face of the news in our country and a respected journalist. According to The New York Times Williams is a NBC anchor who averages 9.3 million viewers each weeknight. His broadcast helped return “The NBC Nightly News” to the number one news broadcast in the 6:30 p.m. time slot.
Williams’ web of mistruths began back in 2003 when he reported from Iraq to Tom Brokaw that the helicopter in front of the one he was traveling in was shot down and forced to land due to rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire. Over the years his story changed when he would speak on late night talk shows and post on social media. Later on the “The Nightly News” he claimed that the plane he was flying in was the one shot down.
This past week this scandal erupted when Williams attended a New York Rangers game with one of the soldiers who also was on that same mission in 2003. Williams immediately apologized on his broadcast claiming that, “I made a mistake of recalling the events of 12 year ago.” By that point viewers were calling into question Williams’ integrity as a journalist and the validity of his past reporting. NBC’s star reporter was instantly involved in a public relations crisis.
Williams immediately stepped down as one of the executive producers of “The Nightly News” and was temporarily replaced by fellow reporter Lester Holt. This past week the public was informed that Brian Williams will take a leave of absence for six months without pay. In a memo NBC News President Deborah Turness stated,
“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.”
Many still question if Brian Williams’ career will ever recover. Six months from now will the public be able to move forward and trust the anchor of “The NBC Nightly News?”