NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- Brian Williams, managing editor and anchor of "NBC Nightly News" for the last decade, has been suspended for six months without pay effective immediately after disputed claims the New Canaan resident made about his experiences in covering the Iraq war.
The announcement came late Tuesday afternoon in a memo NBC News president Deborah Turness sent to staffers.
"We let Brian know of our decision earlier today," Turness wrote in an email sent at 4:48 p.m. Tuesday.
Lester Holt will continue to serve as substitute anchor of "NBC Nightly News," Turness announced. Holt had been sitting in for Williams since Monday.
Williams announced late last week he would be stepping aside from the newscast "for a few days" because the allegations had made him the focus of attention.
Turness said she also had "concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field."
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke called the allegations surrounding Williams "inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate."
"As managing editor and anchor of 'Nightly News,' Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times," Turness wrote in the email.
"As I’m sure you understand, this was a very hard decision," she added. "Certainly there will be those who disagree. But we believe this suspension is the appropriate and proportionate action."
Turness said the review of the Williams situation "is ongoing."
"NBC Nightly News" is the most highly rated evening news program in the nation. Williams took over the job as anchor from Tom Brokaw on Dec. 2, 2004.
Williams has been under fire since last week after making a statement on the news clarifying that he "incorrectly remembered details in a 2003 reporting mission to Iraq."
In a piece that aired on "Nightly News," Williams said that he was in a military helicopter that took on enemy fire. But last Wednesday, Williams told viewers he had made a mistake in recalling the incident, saying that he and his team were actually in an aircraft that was following the helicopter that was hit.
Since then, Williams has faced ridicule and attack from social media. Photos of the longtime anchor have been photoshopped into iconic pictures. Under the Twitter hashtag #BrianWilliamsmisremembers, Williams' face has been included in images such as the invasion of Normandy, the Last Supper, the moon landing, the Civil War, the movie "Titanic" and in the car chase with O.J. Simpson.
After last Friday's broadcast, he took himself off the air "for the next several days" while NBC investigated the situation.
In recent days, other reports by Williams have been called into question:
- A restaurant owner in New Jersey told USA Today he does not believe Williams' claim that he was robbed at gunpoint in Red Bank while selling Christmas trees from a truck in the 1970s.
- The Washington Post reported that a hotel manager disputed Williams' claims that he saw a dead body float past the hotel during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
- Williams also claimed to have survived an enemy attack in an interview with Fairfield University in 2007.
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