New York: MSNBC host and former "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams will leave NBC News in December after 28 years at the network, he announced Tuesday.
Williams, who has helmed MSNBC's 11 p.m. show “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” for the past five years, said he is stepping away from the network at the completion of his contract.
“Following much reflection, and after 28 years with the company, I have decided to leave NBC upon the completion of my current contract in December,” Williams, 62, said in a note to MSNBC employees obtained by The Hill.
“I have been truly blessed. I have been allowed to spend almost half of my life with one company. NBC is a part of me and always will be,” he added.
MSNBC president Rashida Jones told staff that Williams “has informed us he would like to take the coming months to spend time with his family,” according to a letter obtained by The Hill.
“Brian’s time at NBC has been marked by breaking countless major stories, attracting leading journalists and guests to his programs, and most especially, great resiliency. He has built a fiercely loyal following for The 11th Hour and we and our viewers will miss his penetrating questions and thoughtful commentary,” she added.
The longtime journalist was suspended from "Nightly News" for six months in 2015 for embellishing a story about coming under fire while in Iraq. He later returned as a host on MSNBC.
“This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another,” Williams said in his note Tuesday, adding “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere.”
“For the next few months, I'll be with my family, the people I love most and the people who enabled my career to happen. I will reflect on the kindness people have shown me, and I will pay it forward,” he said.
The New York Times was the first to report on Williams’s departure.
Williams joined NBC News starting in 1993, serving as the network’s chief White House correspondent and anchor and managing editor of “The News with Brian Williams,” a program that aired on MSNBC and CNBC.
The local-turned-national news journalist rose to the anchor desk at “NBC Nightly News” in 2004, a spot he held until his suspension in 2015. Williams replaced veteran journalist Tom Brokaw.
Williams drew scrutiny in February 2015 after he admitted to exaggerating a story about an experience he had in a helicopter in Iraq.
He said a helicopter he was aboard was “forced down after being hit by an R.P.G.,” referring to a rocket-propelled grenade, when in actuality he was in a following aircraft that “landed after the ground fire incident.”
He said he then “spent 2 harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert.”
Williams retracted the story and apologized on air, telling viewers “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.”
The longtime journalist returned to MSNBC in September 2015 following his suspension as a breaking-news anchor before starting his current show, “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams,” the next year, which he has helmed ever since.
Williams was also known for his appearances on other media platforms, including the episode he hosted of “Saturday Night Live” in 2007, appearances on the television show “30 Rock” and interviews with David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon on their late-night programs.
Williams reflected on his tenure at MSNBC in his letter to colleagues.
“28 years, 38 countries, 8 Olympic games, 7 Presidential elections, half a dozen Presidents, a few wars, and one SNL. Good friends were in great supply at NBC. I was fortunate that everyone I worked with made me better at my job. I've had the best colleagues imaginable. That includes great bosses,” he wrote.
“I was on the air for the launch of MSNBC. My return years later was my choice, as was launching The 11th Hour that I'm as proud of as the decade I spent anchoring Nightly News. I wanted it to be called The 11th Hour (it was late in the 2016 campaign) and I wanted it to air at 11pm Eastern time. 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,” he added.
The longtime journalist said he has been “truly blessed,” adding “I have been allowed to spend almost half of my life with one company.”
“NBC is a part of me and always will be,” he said.