NBC launches internal probe on Brian Williams claims

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NBC launches internal probe on Brian Williams claims
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 06: (Exclusive Coverage) Dorothea Bon Jovi, Brian Williams, Jane Williams and Jon Bon Jovi attend the after party for 'Hamilton' Broadway opening night at Pier 60 on August 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 04: Brian Williams attends the Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden on February 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
Journalist Brian Williams hosts onstage at The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for The Friars Club)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (l-r) General Wayne A. Downing and Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' during a report from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actress Allison Williams, center, poses with her parents NBC News anchor Brian Williams and Jane Williams at HBO's "Girls" fourth season premiere party at The American Museum of Natural History on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07: Journalist Brian Williams hosts onstage at The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Friars Club)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (l-r) Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno, Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' and General Wayne A. Downing in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (third from left) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (c) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: (c) Anchor and Managing Editor, Brian Williams of 'NBC Nightly News' with American military reports from Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Iraq on March 8, 2007 (Photo by Jeff Riggins/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2014 file photo, Brian Williams speaks at the 8th Annual Stand Up For Heroes, presented by New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York. Williams has admitted he spread a false story about being on a helicopter that came under enemy fire while he was reporting in Iraq in 2003. Williams said he was in a helicopter following other aircraft, one of which was hit by ground fire. His helicopter was not hit. NBC News was not commenting Thursday about whether its top on-air personality would face disciplinary action. (Photo by Brad Barket/Invision/AP, File)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0196 -- Pictured: (l-r) Journalist Brian Williams during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on January 16, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 065 -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Brian Williams during an interview with host Seth Meyers on July 7, 2014 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Ron Meyer (L), president & COO of Universal Studios and Brian Williams, NBC network news anchorman, attend the world premiere of 'Neighbors,' April 28, 2014 at the Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles, California. Man at right in unidentified. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS-EVENTS -- Education Nation: New York Summit, Day 3 -- Pictured: Brian Williams at NBC News' Education Nation Summit at the New York Public Library in New York on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBC NEWS-EVENTS -- Education Nation: New York Summit, Day 3 -- Pictured: Brian Williams and Governor Mitt Romney at NBC News' Education Nation Summit at the New York Public Library in New York on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt Lauer and Brian Williams appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: NBC News anchor Brian Williams and his wife, Jane Stoddard Williams attend the Tribeca Talks Directors Series with Robert De Niro and Brian Williams during the 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS -- Pictured: Brian Williams -- As protesters converged on the heart of Cairo in droves on Tuesday, NBC News' Brian Williams was there to speak with those who responded to the call for Egyptians to unite in the largest protest yet in a week of unceasing demands for President Hosni Mubarak to leave (Photo by Subrata De/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, speaks at the Women's Conference Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010, in Long Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Event co-hosts Brian Williams, left, and Katie Couric at the "Stand Up To Cancer" television event at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. The fundraising event aimed to raise funds for cancer research was simulcast live on several network and cable television stations. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams attends the premiere screening of 'Faces of America With Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.' at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
** FILE ** In this May 28, 2008 file photo, CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, center, NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams, left, and ABC "World News" anchor Charles Gibson, right, are interviewed on the NBC 'Today' show in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
NBC commentator Brian Williams talks to the crowd who assembled to hear the first Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2008 election hosted by South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., Thursday, April 26, 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Brian Williams, with the NBC Nightly News, reports from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday, April 16, 2007. A gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Stephanie Klein-Davis)
Brian Williams, left, anchor of "NBC Nightly News," talks about the program along with Steve Capus, president of NBC News, at the Summer Television Critics Association press tour Friday, July 21, 2006, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Photo by: Jackson Lee/starmaxinc.com �2005 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 11/16/05 Brian Williams and wife at an American Museum of Natural History Benefit. (NYC) (Star Max via AP Images)
NBC's Brian Williams smiles during a news conference Tuesday, May 28, 2002, in New York. Williams will succeed Tom Brokaw as anchorman of NBC's "Nightly News" in 2004, as NBC becomes the first of the three networks to announce a succession plan for their chief anchors. (AP Photo/ Diane Bondareff)
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NEW YORK (AP) - NBC News has assigned the head of its own investigative unit to look into statements that anchor Brian Williams made about his reporting in Iraq a dozen years ago, an episode that's ballooned into a full-blown credibility crisis for the network.

NBC News President Deborah Turness announced the probe in an internal memo on Friday. Williams has apologized for falsely saying on the air that he was in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while in Iraq in 2003, and Turness said Friday the anchor expressed his regrets to his colleagues for the impact the episode has had.

"As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired," Turness wrote. "We're working on what the best next steps are."

Richard Esposito, who has worked at the New York Daily News, New York Newsday and ABC and is now at NBC, is leading the investigation. There was no immediate word on whether Williams would anchor NBC's "Nightly News" on Friday.

Williams' story about his wartime reporting experience made him a subject of mockery, including a New York Post front cover that depicted him with a long Pinocchio's nose, over the headline "A Nose for News."

He's the leading man at the network's news division, whose nightly newscast has topped its rivals in ratings for the better part of a decade. As a frequent talk show guest and one-time "Saturday Night Live" host, his celebrity transcended the news division.

He apologized on the air Wednesday for telling his story about the supposed grenade attack as recently as last Friday on "Nightly News." He admitted that his helicopter was not hit by a grenade after war veterans had come forward to question the account, some even disputing whether Williams' helicopter was in a group that came under direct attack.

NBC News needs to look at not only Williams' story, which has changed in details as he's talked about it over the years, but whether anybody else at the network knew that he was spreading a falsehood and did anything about it, said Kelly McBride, an expert on ethics for the journalism think tank the Poynter Institute.

"He is the front man of 'Nightly News' and is seen as the primary arbiter of the facts," McBride said. "For him to get something wrong on something he was involved in casts doubt on his ability to get any facts right."

NBC News must also weigh his importance to the news division and the work he has done since taking over as top anchor from Tom Brokaw in 2004, she said. Brokaw, for his part, on Friday denied a published report that he had suggested Williams be dismissed.

"Brian's future will be decided by him and the executives of NBC News," Brokaw said.

That would be Deborah Turness and her immediate supervisor, Pat Fili-Krushel, who had seen "Nightly News" as a bright spot for the network as they tried to correct ratings problems at the "Today" show and "Meet the Press." NBC's corporate parents at Comcast would likely weigh in as well.

Meanwhile Friday, CNN said it was stepping back from its own report Thursday, quoting Rich Krell, a veteran who claimed to pilot Williams' helicopter in Iraq. Krell had said Thursday that the helicopter had taken small arms fire - if not a grenade attack - but said Friday that he was questioning his own recollections after being contradicted by other veterans.




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