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Brian Williams

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Brian Williams

< $10 million annually

Years active

Brian Williams Brian Williams39s Mistake The New Yorker

Full Name
Brian Douglas Williams

May 5, 1959 (age 56) (
Middletown Township, New Jersey, U.S.

New Canaan, Connecticut, U.S.

Alma mater
Brookdale Community College George Washington University The Catholic University of America

Notable credit(s)
NBC News reporter (1993–2004) NBC Nightly News weekend anchor (1993–1999) NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor (2004–February 2015) MSNBC breaking news anchor (September 2015–)

Jane Stoddard Williams (m. 1986)

Allison Williams, Douglas Williams

Brookdale Community College

Gordon L. Williams, Dorothy May

TV shows
NBC Nightly News, Rock Center with Brian Will, Dateline NBC, MSNBC Live, Education Nation

Similar People
Allison Williams, Lester Holt, Jane Stoddard Williams, Tom Brokaw, Ann Curry


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Brian Douglas Williams (born May 5, 1959) is an American journalist at NBC News, currently serving as chief anchor on the cable network MSNBC and host of the network's nightly flagship program, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.


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Williams is known for his ten years as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, the evening news program of the NBC television network. Six months after Williams joined the program in December 2004, NBC News was awarded the Peabody Award for its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina story. In February 2015, Williams was suspended for six months, and eventually demoted from the Nightly News for "misrepresent[ing] events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003."

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Early life

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Born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Williams was raised in a "boisterous" Irish Catholic home. He is the son of Dorothy May (née Pampel) and Gordon Lewis Williams, who was an executive vice president of the National Retail Merchants Association, in New York. His mother was an amateur stage actress. Williams is the youngest of four siblings. He lived in Elmira, New York for nine years before moving to Middletown, New Jersey, when he was in junior high school.

Brian Williams NBCs Brian Williams recants Iraq attack story Feb 4 2015

Williams graduated from Mater Dei High School, a Roman Catholic high school in the New Monmouth section of Middletown. While in high school, he was a volunteer firefighter for three years at the Middletown Township Fire Department. Also while in high school, he was the editorial editor for the school newspaper. He suffered an accident during a football game which left him with a crooked nose. His first job was as a busboy at Perkins Pancake House.

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After high school Williams attended Brookdale Community College, after which he transferred to The Catholic University of America and then The George Washington University. He did not graduate, and instead interned with the administration of President Jimmy Carter. He later called leaving college one of his "great regrets."

Early broadcast career

Brian Williams The List 32 Lies and Disputed Stories NBC News Let Brian Williams

Williams first worked in broadcasting in 1981 at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, Kansas. The following year he covered news in the Washington, D.C., area at then-independent station WTTG, then worked in Philadelphia for WCAU, which at that time was owned and operated by CBS. Beginning in 1987 he broadcast in New York City at WCBS.

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Williams joined NBC News in 1993, where he anchored the national Weekend Nightly News and was chief White House correspondent. In the summer of 1996 he began serving as anchor and managing editor of The News with Brian Williams, broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC. Williams also served as primary substitute anchor for Tom Brokaw on The NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and the Weekend anchor of that news broadcast.

NBC Nightly News

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Williams became anchor of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004, and his first year in that post was marked by coverage of two disasters: the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. His and NBC's Katrina coverage was widely praised, and Williams in particular was applauded "for venting his anger and frustration over the government's failure to act quickly to help the victims." NBC News was awarded a Peabody Award for its coverage, the Peabody committee concluding that "Williams, and the entire staff of NBC Nightly News exemplified the highest levels of journalistic excellence in reporting on Hurricane Katrina." NBC Nightly News also earned the George Polk Award and the duPont-Columbia University Award for its Katrina coverage. Vanity Fair called Williams' work on Katrina "Murrow-worthy" and reported that during the hurricane he became "a nation's anchor." The New York Times characterized Williams' reporting of the hurricane as "a defining moment."

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In 2007, Time magazine named Williams one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2009, Williams was awarded the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism by Arizona State University. At the announcement of the award, Cronkite said he was one of Williams's "ardent admirers" and described him as a "fastidious newsman" who brought credit to the television news reporting profession.

Since he began anchoring the Nightly News, Williams has received 12 News & Documentary Emmy Awards. For "outstanding" work as anchor and managing editor of the Nightly News, he received one Emmy in 2006 (for Nightly News coverage of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina), two in 2007, one in 2009, two in 2010, one in 2011, one in 2013, and one in 2014. The 2014 Emmy was awarded Nightly News for its coverage of a deadly series of tornadoes in Oklahoma, for which it also received the duPont-Columbia University Award.

Williams also received a 2012 Emmy for his interview program Rock Center and a 2013 Emmy for being one of the executive producers and editors of a documentary on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. He also shared a 2014 Emmy awarded for an NBC News Special on the Boston Marathon bombings.

Based on the Nielsen ratings, from late 2008 Williams' news broadcast consistently had more viewers than its two main rivals, ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News. In fact, from late 2008 to late 2014, NBC Nightly News beat the other two network programs in the Nielsen ratings all but one week.

In February 2015, Williams was suspended for six months from the broadcast for misrepresenting his experience in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Williams' salary was $10 million a year, with a five-year contract signed in December 2014.

Rock Center with Brian Williams

On October 4, 2011, it was announced that Williams would be the host of Rock Center with Brian Williams, a news magazine program premiering on October 31, 2011, at 10:00 pm Eastern, replacing the canceled drama series The Playboy Club. Named after the nickname of Rockefeller Center, the New York City landmark where NBC Radio City Studios are located, the program would become the first new NBC News program to launch in primetime in nearly two decades.

NBC cancelled Rock Center on May 10, 2013, due to low ratings; the network was also having trouble finding a permanent time slot for the program. The last show aired on June 21, 2013. Williams reportedly felt "insulted" by the program's cancellation.

Iraq War helicopter incident

On February 4, 2015, Williams apologized for and recanted his disproven Iraq War story that he had told on a Nightly News broadcast on January 30, 2003. He claimed that a military helicopter he was traveling in had been "forced down after being hit by an RPG." Soon after it aired, Williams's story was criticized by Lance Reynolds, a flight engineer on board one of the three Chinook helicopters that had been attacked. Reynolds and other crew members said they were forced to make an emergency landing, and that Williams's Chinook arrived a half-hour to an hour later.

In his original on-air reporting of the incident on March 26, 2003, for Dateline NBC, Williams had said only that "the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky ... by an RPG" and made an emergency landing. But in introducing the piece, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw described Williams as having "got [him]self into ... a close call in the skies over Iraq", and the story was headlined, "Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC's Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire". A book published by NBC in 2003 said that "Army Chinook helicopters [were] forced to make a desert landing after being attacked by Iraqi Fedayeen", with Williams aboard.

In a 2007 retelling, Williams did not state that his craft had been hit, but said: "I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us, and it hit the chopper in front of us." This contradicted the statements by the crew of the craft that was hit, that it was at least 30 minutes ahead of Williams's helicopter. However, the soldiers who piloted Williams's helicopter in Iraq said no rocket-propelled grenades had been fired at the aircraft, a fact that Williams did not dispute and apologized for. In a 2013 account, Williams said that his helicopter had been "hit … and landed very quickly."

In a February 5, 2015 interview with CNN, the pilot of the Chinook in which Williams was traveling said that while the aircraft did not sustain RPG fire, it did indeed sustain small-arms fire and the door gunners returned fire.

On February 10, 2015, NBC News President Deborah Turness announced Williams's suspension from Nightly News for six months without pay for having misrepresented the Iraq incident.

Other incidents

The Iraq War controversy prompted greater scrutiny of several earlier statements made by Williams, including some he made regarding Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. For example, Williams referred inconsistently to a suicide that took place inside the New Orleans Superdome at the time of Katrina. CNN reported in a 2005 television documentary that Williams said he was not a witness to the suicide, stating, "We heard the story of a man killing himself, falling from the upper deck." In a 2014 interview, however, Williams said, "We watched, all of us watched, as one man committed suicide."

Appearing on The Daily Show in August 2006, he told host Jon Stewart that he was nearly hit the previous month by Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon by Hezbollah while flying in an Israeli Air Force (IAF) Black Hawk helicopter: "Here’s a view of rockets I have never seen, passing underneath us, 1,500 feet beneath us. And we’ve got the gunner doors on this thing, and I’m saying to the general, some four-star: 'It wouldn’t take much for them to adjust the aim and try to do a ring toss right through our open doors, would it?' Anytime you want to cross over to the other side, baby, travel with me." In another version of the same story, related by Williams during an interview conducted at Fairfield University a year later, he claimed that the rockets passed "just underneath the helicopter I was riding in." The claim was drawn into question since there are no four-star generals in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israeli helicopter doors are routinely closed during flights and the IAF's Black Hawks do not carry gunners, although an IDF spokesman who was on the helicopter in question did confirm that there was Katyusha fire and, although the helicopter was not in danger, the "trajectory of the rockets was beneath us."

A reference to the fall of the Berlin Wall also received scrutiny. In 2008, Williams said that he was "at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall came down", while CBS and other sources report that Williams did not arrive until November 10, the day after the gates between the two halves of Berlin were opened. "'The night the wall came down' is widely recognized as November 9, 1989", according to a CNN report. Williams joked in 2014 that he was upset that NBC's Tom Brokaw had arrived first in Berlin, adding that "by the second night of the story, we were all there."

Another statement by Williams, this one regarding the Navy SEALs, also received attention. Williams said he flew into Baghdad with SEAL Team Six, but Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw stated the SEALs do not embed journalists.

On June 19, 2015, his suspension drawing to a close, Williams gave another apology and an account about his role in news going forward in an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show.

On April 7, 2017, Williams referred to the 2017 Shayrat missile strike footage of missiles being fired from a US warship as "beautiful pictures". This brought widespread criticism from the media and social networking.


In September 2015, Williams returned to the air as MSNBC's chief anchor. News events that Williams has since covered for MSNBC include Pope Francis' trip to the United States, Umpqua Community College shooting, and terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, Belgium, and Nice. In January 2016, Williams also added the role of chief elections anchor for MSNBC and sequentially debuted in the new role during coverage of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. As part of his chief anchor duties, Williams currently anchors a nightly news and politics wrap-up show, titled The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.

Other activities

Williams frequently appeared on The Daily Show as a celebrity guest interviewed by Jon Stewart and in 2007, made regular cameos as a giant head sidekick looking on Jon Stewart and helping out with pronunciations of foreign names and occasionally other foreign affairs all beginning at the premiere of the new Daily Show set. He appeared on the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live on the season 32 premiere hosted by Dane Cook and then hosted a season 33 episode on November 3, 2007. With this episode, Williams was the first, and (so far) only, sitting network news anchor to host SNL.

Williams appeared on Sesame Street in a 2007 episode, announcing the word of the day, "squid," in a special broadcast. Williams appeared on Sesame Street again in a 2008 episode, reporting for Sesame Street Nightly News about the "mine-itis" outbreak, becoming a victim. He was also the host of the 2009 Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala.

On February 22, 2010, while covering the Winter Olympics, Williams did a skit with Brian Williams, the Canadian sportscaster of CTV Sports, on the CTV Olympic set. Some in the media dubbed this the new "Battle of the Brians," as NBC's Williams compared his own modest set to CTV's expensive Olympic studio.

Williams regularly appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where he slow jams the news of the previous week as Fallon sings and reiterates what Williams says, with The Roots providing the musical backing. A mash-up video created by Fallon, where Williams appears to rap to hip-hop instrumentals, became viral within a few hours. Williams has also made numerous appearances on Late Show with David Letterman. During an appearance on July 26, 2011, he demonstrated a skilled vocal impersonation of TV personality Regis Philbin. He has also appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, where he took part in numerous skits and interviews.

Williams also frequently made guest appearances on NBC's television comedy 30 Rock, as a caricatured version of himself. In the episode "The Ones," he's seen at home receiving proposition calls meant for Tracy Jordan. In "Audition Day," he auditions to be a new TGS cast member. He also is seen once on the show taunting Tina Fey's character, Liz Lemon. In April, 2012, on the West Coast installment of the 30 Rock season 6 live show, Williams portrayed a news anchor covering the Apollo 13 story.

Williams was the commencement speaker at Bates College in December 2004, The Catholic University of America in May 2004, Ohio State University in June 2008, and at the University of Notre Dame in 2010. In May 2012, he spoke at the George Washington University commencement on the National Mall. He was also the commencement speaker for Elon University's graduating class of 2013, which included his son Douglas.

Williams has written for publications including The New York Times and Time magazine.

Personal life

Williams married Jane Gillan Williams (née Stoddard), at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, Connecticut, on June 7, 1986. They currently live in New Canaan, Connecticut. Their daughter Allison is an actress who stars in HBO's Girls. He received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Bates College in 2005. Williams' son, Doug, is the late-night anchor of Geico SportsNite on SportsNet New York, a regional sports channel available in the New York metropolitan area. Doug Williams' program occasionally airs at the same time as his father's MSNBC program.

Brian Williams was named "Father of the Year" in 1996 by the National Father's Day Committee.

Williams was a member of the board of directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation from September 2006 until resigning in the wake of the scandal over his Iraq War comments.

Career timeline

  • 1981: KOAM-TV
  • 1982–86: WTTG-TV correspondent
  • 1985: Panorama Host
  • 1985–87: WCAU-TV New Jersey correspondent
  • 1987–93: WCBS-TV Anchor of weekday noon and weekend night newscasts; reporter
  • 1993–present: NBC News
  • 1993–94, 1996–2004: correspondent
  • 1993–99: NBC Nightly News weekend anchor
  • 1994–96: White House correspondent
  • 1996–04: MSNBC The News with Brian Williams anchor
  • 2004–15: NBC Nightly News anchor
  • 2011–13: Rock Center with Brian Williams host
  • 2015: six-month suspension from NBC Nightly News for misrepresenting Iraq War experience
  • 2015–present: MSNBC Chief Breaking News Anchor
  • 2016–present: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams Anchor
  • References

    Brian Williams Wikipedia