Longtime NBC and MSNBC Anchor Brian Williams is finally quietly retiring from NBC and MSNBC, where he served as an anchorman and reporter for nearly 3 full decades. His departure is expected at the end of the year.
Williams' credibility was permanently blemished when he was exposed as a repeated fabulist, who frequently shared different versions of a story where a helicopter he was riding in while embedded with the US military was allegedly struck down by an enemy projectile.
In case you aren't familiar/don't remember the fracas that forced Williams into hiding for months before he quietly slunk back to the anchor desk, here's the short version, courtesy of Politico: "over the years, Williams has told a shifting story about the day he flew aboard a U.S. Army helicopter during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In later versions, he has said his helicopter was hit and forced down by enemy fire, the version he told last Friday. Called out for his fabrication, Williams came clean, calling the recollections a 'mistake' and acknowledging that it was a helicopter flying well ahead of his helicopter that got hit. "I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another," Williams later told Stars and Stripes.
Of course, any journalist - or amateur storyteller - could probably empathize: why should the truth stand in the way of a good story?
The only problem is that while Williams' career never recovered after that incident (which occurred back in 2015), he did often criticize President Trump, using the excuse that the then-President's speeches weren't "based in reality" as justification for cutting away.
Here's more on Williams' departure, news of which was clearly and conveniently leaked to Williams' CNN pal Brian Stelter.
For the past five years, Williams has anchored "The 11th Hour," an end-of-the-day newscast and political talk program. CNN Business reported in August that his contract was expiring in the next six months and that he wanted to move off the late-night hour.
Now he is doing it. But he added in Tuesday's statement, "I ask all those who are a part of our loyal viewing audience to remain loyal. The 11th Hour will remain in good hands, produced by the best team in cable news."
Williams' exit from NBC has an end-of-an-era feel. He was a key player in the launch of the MSNBC news channel in 1996, manning breaking news coverage and a prime time recap of the day. Then he became one of America's best-known newsmen during his decade at the helm of the "NBC Nightly News," one of the most-watched news programs in the US.
Stelter added that Williams' "comeback" was remarkable.
"Most broadcasters would have been cooked if they had undergone the sort of scandal that Williams faced in 2015," Vanity Fair said in 2017. "But a slow-and-steady revival -- a mixture of dutiful penance, clever planning, and a dramatic change in the media -- has Williams turning 11 p.m. into the new primetime."
Well, that's one way to put it. Maybe on his last day at 30 Rock, NBC can fly Williams out via helicopter.