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NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams sent a memo to NBC Staff on Saturday afternoon informing them that he will stop hosting the show for the next few days:
"In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions."
"As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us."
(Check for updates on this story from The Associated Press)
By Ben Levin
So, you've heard about this by now — Brian Williams apparently fabricated this story. (Video via CBS / "Late Show With David Letterman")
"Two of our four helicopters were hit by ground-fire, including the one I was in," he said.
"No kidding!" David Letterman replied.
Williams has said several times over the years that he was in a helicopter shot down by an RPG in the Iraq War — and was forced to apologize for his tale.
"I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire; I was instead in a following aircraft," he said on NBC.
"So he's not sorry for what he's done. He's just trying to protect himself. He should be fired."
Variety's Andrew Wallenstein wrote that Williams' apology wasn't vulnerable or honest enough.
Cue the cross-examination. Now it seems Wiliams' entire body of work will be pored over.
"When you look out of your hotel room in the French Quarter and watch a man float by facedown," he said in an interview.
The problem is this: Though the French Quarter was hit by Hurricane Katrina, it didn't flood — so how did a body float down its streets?
But there is another explanation: The New Orleans Advocate reports that Williams stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, which is close to the French Quarter and did see flooding in the storm.
Basically, it's plausible Williams was only mistaken about his location and not the actual presence of a body. The New York Times reports that floating bodies were a common sight in the days after Katrina.
USA Today points out that the network has a dilemma: Although it needs an anchor people can trust, Williams is a big brand and brings in big ratings.
The outlet argues that's both hurt and helped him: Maybe a need to be a brand spurred Williams to tell this story. It was captivating. And maybe now being that brand will save him at a time when the popularity — and moral authority — of nightly news shows is on the decline.
This video includes images from Getty Images.