NBC’s Brian Williams to step down as top-rated anchor

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

New York (CNN) — Brian Williams announced Wednesday that he would step down as the top-rated anchor at NBC’s “Nightly News” on Thursday.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to be taking a step back from my regular role as anchor of ‘Nightly News,’ but I will continue as the breaking news anchor of TODAY, and as a member of the TODAY team,” Williams said.

NBC said Williams, 59, will return to MSNBC, where he previously anchored a 10 a.m. ET newscast.

“I’m humbled and grateful to all of you for joining me through the years, and for the support and encouragement you’ve shown me,” Williams said. “I’ve had great partners at NBC News and great friends across the industry — most especially my colleagues in the ‘Nightly News’ bureau in New York.”

Since taking over for Tom Brokaw nearly 15 years ago, Williams has won 26 Emmys and a Peabody Award for his overall coverage of major stories.

He also has the highest per capita viewership at the 3 p.m. hour of MSNBC, ahead of CNN and Fox News.

In June 2011, Williams reported that he had been given a death threat after he presented a story about an alleged war crime committed in Libya by Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Williams said he had reported it after the U.S. had warned it would not attack Libya.

The story was found to be based on a video from a London-based journalist who did not ask Williams for comment. But Williams still insisted that he did not know the story was based on a video.

“I promise you when I’m gone, people will be able to look back, review what I did, evaluate my performance,” Williams said Wednesday. “I’ll go down as one of the great television journalists. The great news network ‘NBC Nightly News’ has great journalists to succeed me, people like Lester Holt. I told them this Tuesday.”

NBC and Williams apologized publicly for his comment soon after, but things came to a head after Williams hosted the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

At one point during the conventions, Williams characterized an attack by supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as akin to “mob rule.”

Williams apologized again for the “mob rule” comment after viewers complained, prompting NBC to suspend him without pay for six months.

“He’s had a tough few months and not great television,” said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. “People are not willing to forgive him at this point for the death threat. At least with some of this recent material, he makes news and people actually feel like they know the news.”

NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said Williams is not out of the woods yet, citing a “dilemma” about Williams’ future in television news.

“Brian can safely retire as a newsman but a few months ago he himself said he wanted to go back to journalism and have something to say,” Lack said. “Brian found a way to say it with this week’s stories and the coming examination of his errors. I now have the perfect tribute to the great work he has done as a journalist.”

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