“It has been torture,” Brian Williams said of his suspension from NBC News. Williams spoke to NBC’s Matt Lauer in his first interview since the suspension was announced and he spoke about his past mistakes, the present, and his future. NBC News announced yesterday that Williams will move to MSNBC in order to cover breaking news and special events. Lester Holt, who has been anchoring Nightly News during Williams’s suspension, has been named the new anchor.
When the interview with Lauer was announced, many criticized the choice of having Williams interviewed by another member of the NBC Universal family. However, Lauer did say that there were “no conditions or guidelines placed on this interview.”
In the interview, Lauer pressed Williams on his mistakes, both the lies and Williams’s response to the controversy. Lauer pressed Williams on what caused him to fabricate these stories and Williams said that it partly came from his ego. That sentiment has been echoed in other news reports which said that Williams built up his stories, especially the original story regarding the helicopter, because he felt lesser compared to the war journalists. Other news reports painted Williams as an anchor forever trying to escape the shadow of his predecessor, Tom Brokaw.
Lauer did bring up NBC’s internal investigation of Williams’s fabrications and noted that fabrications was plural, as in several instances of Williams doing this. He asked Williams if he wanted to acknowledge any other examples, but Williams did not. One question that remains is whether or not Williams made up the story about seeing a dead body floating during Hurricane Katrina coverage. If so, it could prove to be a further damage to him because he has defended himself by saying that the false stories came years after he told the original, true story.
While Williams seemingly attempted to blame the incidents on his ego, he did take responsibility. He added, “I own this. I own up to this.”
Lauer brought up how Williams has betrayed the trust of his viewers by telling false stories. Williams said, “I will work everyday for it.” However, it is unknown how much Williams will get to appear on the network if he is doing breaking news coverage and special events. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post has looked at how much Williams may do, or not, with breaking news. TKNN has reached out to a MSNBC spokesperson on further information about his special events role, but has not heard back.
Williams and Lauer also brought up Williams’s punishment and removal from NBC Nightly News. Williams said, “Was it my first choice? No.” Williams spoke about how he felt he did well at job and brought up the ratings supremacy he and the program enjoyed during his decade-long run. Then he added, “I accept the decision.” Williams then praised Holt, saying no one was “more deserving” of the role.
The interview aired Friday morning on the Today Show and it will also air on Friday’s Nightly News. Savannah Guthrie is currently anchoring Nightly News as Lester Holt is on vacation.