NBC television news anchor Brian Williams has been suspended for six months without pay for embellishing his role in an Iraq war story, the network said Tuesday.
Williams, 55, who has issued a public apology for his actions, has been the subject of an internal NBC investigation. Late last week, he announced he would be removing himself from his top-rated evening national newscast for several days.
In a written statement Tuesday, NBC Universal Chief Executive Steve Burke said, "By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.''
The statement did not say whether Williams would return to his news anchor position after the suspension.
During the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Williams reported that a Chinook helicopter flying ahead of his was "almost blown out of the sky," but his story has gradually changed. The controversy erupted last month after he repeated a different version of the story on television, claiming that he was in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while in Iraq.
Williams acknowledged last week that the story was inaccurate. But his apology, in which he said he misremembered the incident, provoked widespread derision. Military personnel who were present at the time and other journalists have called for his resignation.
The network newsman also is facing scrutiny for his statements about covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Among his assertions, he said he saw a body float by the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the French Quarter, the historic district of New Orleans, where he stayed, and that he got dysentery from the floodwater.
The U.S. Army commander of the joint task force during Hurricane Katrina later called Williams’ story “suspect.” Lt. Gen. Russel Honore told CNN that the flooding around Williams’ hotel would most likely not have been high enough to float a body because there was relatively little flooding in the French Quarter.
In announcing his decision to take himself temporarily off the air, Williams said, "As managing editor of 'NBC Nightly News,' I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and [weekend anchor] Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue." Williams said he planned eventually to return to the broadcast and "continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us."
Williams is a former chief White House correspondent. He has been the 'NBC Nightly News' anchor since 2004.