Former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams broke his silence Friday morning after enduring months of public scrutiny following a scandal that saw his removal from network air and prolonged speculation about the fate of his career in the news business.
The comments came during an interview with “Today” co-host Matt Lauer broadcast on that show in two segments.
During the course of the interview, Williams acknowledged that he’d made mistakes, but stopped short of characterizing his erroneous statements as intentional lies. Instead, he attributed them to his unchecked ego, which he said led him to exaggerate his role in stories.
“I was not trying to mislead people,” Williams said. “That was the huge difference here. No. 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’s very clear I never intended to.”
During the first segment of the interview, Lauer asked Williams about the months-long investigation into faulty statements about his on-air reportage and asked the anchor whether he was aware of its conclusions. Williams said that he was. Lauer then asked Williams if he wanted to “take this opportunity” to provide a full accounting of its results.
Williams demurred, saying instead that his behavior has changed.
“I would take this opportunity to say what has happened in the past has been identified and torn apart by me, has been fixed and has been dealt with,” Williams said. “And going forward there are going to be other rules of the road.”
Williams spoke during the conversation about his sudden inclusion into a group of individuals who have also been given second chances. He praised his successor, Lester Holt. And he said that he initially fought for the “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair before coming to terms with his demotion to MSNBC.
“Was it my first choice?” Williams asked. “No. Obviously I wanted to return to my old job. I thought we had a great 10-year run.”
At the end of the interview, Lauer asked Williams to provide a headline that might accompany a story about the arc of his career. Williams replied:
“A chastened and grateful man, mindful of his blessings, mindful of his mistakes, returns, hoping for forgiveness and acceptance.”
And the final line of that story?
“Hopefully, ‘Williams was 110 years old and lived in Sarasota, Florida,’” Williams said.