One day after NBC announced Brian Williams would no longer host NBC Nightly News in the wake of his six-month suspension for fabricating stories about his field coverage — notably, a 2003 incident that took place during the war in Iraq — Williams appeared on the TODAY show for his first interview since the scandal broke.
“It has been torture,” Williams told TODAY show host Matt Lauer about the suspension. “Looking back, it has been absolutely necessary. I have discovered a lot of things. I have been listening to and watching what amounts to the black box recordings from my career. I’ve gone back through everything — basically 20 years of public utterances.”
Despite his demotion off Nightly News, Williams remains at the network, and will cover breaking news for MSNBC. He told Lauer that wasn’t his first choice. “Obviously I wanted to return to my old job. I thought we’d had a great 10-year run and were on top for most of that time. I pushed back at first,” Williams said. “Enough time has passed, I accept the decision.”
Asked about the fabrications around the 2003 story, and if he knew it was not true, Williams said, “I told the story correctly for years, before I told it incorrectly. I was not trying to mislead people. That to me is a huge difference here.” Williams said he did not know the story wasn’t true, but that it “came from a sloppy choice of words.”
On Thursday, when NBC announced that Williams would no longer anchor its flagship news program, he apologized for the lies he told on air and in other public appearances.
“I’m sorry,” Williams said. “I said things that weren’t true. I let down my NBC colleagues and our viewers, and I’m determined to earn back their trust. I will greatly miss working with the team on Nightly News, but I know the broadcast will be in excellent hands with Lester Holt as anchor. I will support him 100 percent as he has always supported me. I am grateful for the chance to return to covering the news. My new role will allow me to focus on important issues and events in our country and around the world, and I look forward to it.”
Speaking to Lauer, Williams echoed those statements, saying he was “happy to have a job” and that he was “fortunate to be able to go back to NBC.”
“I am a grateful person,” Williams said. “I am fully aware of the second chance I have been given. I don’t intend to squander it.”
Watch the interview below. A second part will air on Friday night’s Nightly News.