“It has been torture,” Brian Williams said when asked how the last five months have been. “Looking back it has been absolutely necessary. I have discovered a lot of things.”
That is how Matt Lauer‘s highly anticipated interview with Williams began this morning on the Today show. MSNBC’s newest breaking news anchor admitted that he often saw coverage of his suspension, comparing it to the “black box recordings of his career.”
“I would have given anything to get to the end of the story and have it be someone else – but it was about me. These statement I made, I own this. I own up to this. I had to go through and try to figure out how it happened,” Williams said.
Williams said the last five months have been a time of “realization” and he was trying to figure out “what changed” inside him.
“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 credibility and our integrity,” Williams said. “It is clear after work, when I got out of the building. When I got out of that realm, I used a double standard.”
Williams thinks “it had to have been ego” that made him want to be “sharper,” “funnier” and “quicker” than anyone else during public appearances, such as late night talk shows.
“I told the story correctly for years, before I told it incorrectly,” Williams said. “I was not trying to mislead people.”
Lauer pushed harder, asking, “did you know, when you went on Nightly News that you were telling a story that was not true.”
“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 is very clear. I never intended to. It got mixed up. It got turned around,” Williams said.
“This came from a bad place, a bad urge inside me. This was clearly, ego driven. The desire to better a story I was already in. That’s what I’ve been tearing apart,” Williams said.
Williams was then asked why he didn’t simply go on air and admit he lied back when the story first broke.
“I know why people would see it that way. It’s not what happened. What happened is the fault of a whole host of other sins. What happened is clearly part of my ego getting the better of me. To put myself in a better light, to appear better than I was, that’s the process here,” Williams said.
Williams then said he thinks forgiveness would have come sooner if he admitted his mistake right away. “These statement I made, I own this,” he said.
Lauer went on to bring up NBC’s internal investigation regarding other news stories that Williams was involved in that, “were also untrue.”
“It is clear and in many cases years later, I said things that were wrong. One is too much. Any number north of zero is too much. We can’t have it,” Williams said before Lauer offered an opportunity to correct anything we don’t already know about.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say that what has happed in the past has been identified and torn apart by me. It has been fixed, has been dealt with. And going forward, there are going to be different rules of the road. I know why people feel the way they do. I get this. I’m responsible for this. I am sorry,” Williams said. “I am different as a result and I expect to be held to a different standard.”
Williams didn’t lead the show, as it opened with extended coverage of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. The Williams segment was teased during the show’s intro and again around 7:20 a.m. before the first segment of the interview aired at 7:37 a.m. ET. Lauer introduced the segment by explaining that it was agreed “no conditions or guidelines” would be placed on the interview.
The second half of the interview aired roughly 30 minutes later, with Williams discussing second chances.
“I am a grateful person. I am fully aware of the second chance I have been given. I don’t intend to squander it,” Williams said.
When asked if it’s hard to wrap his head around the fact that he’s no longer the anchor of Nightly News, Williams admitted the decision wasn’t his first choice before praising new anchor Lester Holt.
“Obviously I wanted to return to my old job, I thought we had a great 10-year run,” Williams said. “I accept the decision. There is another component here and that is our friend Lester Holt. No one is more deserving. It’s Lester’s job.”
Williams started to get more emotional when Lauer asked about his new role at MSNBC.
“I’m very happy to be coming back. First of all, I’m happy to have a job,” Williams said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to go back to NBC.”
The interview wasn’t live, but rather a pre-taped sit-down that was conducted Wednesday and Thursday in New York. It will air again tonight on NBC Nightly News.
Williams goes on to discuss his new role at MSNBC and what it was like watching the news with “no outlet.” Check out the video below:
What did you think of the interview? Let us know in the comment section below.