The former NBC Nightly News anchor blames his troubles on "ego" but says he didn't mean to mislead people

By Tim Nudd
Updated June 19, 2015 08:25 AM
Monica Schipper/Getty

Brian Williams apologized Friday for saying “things that weren’t true” as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News. However, he claimed he wasn’t lying but had become egotistical about his experiences and gotten “mixed up” when he spoke of them.

Williams, 56, told NBC colleague Matt Lauer in a taped interview on Today – which Lauer said was no holds barred – that he has spent the months since the scandal broke in February going back through his career and trying to “figure out how it happened” that he ended up saying falsehoods on air.

“I own this. I own up to this,” he said.

“In our work, I have always treated words very carefully. That’s the coin of our realm. That’s our tool. It’s the key to our integrity and our credibility. But Matt, it is clear that after work, when I got out of the building, when I got out of that realm, I used a double standard. Something changed. I was sloppier. And I said things that weren’t true. Looking back, that’s plain.”

Williams’ most infamous claim was that he came under fire while in a helicopter with U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003. That was untrue. Asked if he consciously lied about that, Williams flatly said no.

“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,” he said. “Looking back, it had to have been ego that made me think I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else. Put myself closer to the action, having been at the action in the beginning.”

He added: “It came from a bad place. It came from a sloppy choice of words. I told stories that were not true over the years. Looking back, it is very clear. I never intended to. It got mixed up. It got turned around in my mind.”

Still, he did explicitly apologize for his actions.

“What has happened in the past has been identified and torn apart by me and has been fixed, has been dealt with,” he said. “And going forward, there are going to be new rules of the road. I know why people feel the way they do. I get this. I am responsible for this. I am sorry for what happened here. I am different as a result, and I expect to be held to a different standard.”

Williams will not return as anchor of NBC Nightly News – that job is going to Lester Holt, who has been filling in. Williams will do reporting work for MSNBC instead.

He said he initially resisted that demotion but has learned to embrace it.

“I am a grateful person,” he said. “I am fully aware of the second chance I have been. I don’t intend to squander it.”