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February 07, 2015

Brian Williams will take himself off the air for a few days

NBC anchor Brian Williams stepping aside for probe

NBC News anchor Brian Williams announced on Saturday he will take himself off the evening newscast for several days as the network investigates misstatements related to his experience reporting on the Iraq war in 2003. 

"In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions," Williams said in a statement posted on NBC News' website.

The star anchor, who has garnered high ratings for NBC, said he planned eventually to return to the broadcast and "continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us."

Lester Holt, typically the weekend anchor for NBC Evening News, will take over the weekday evening broadcast in the interim, Williams said. 

NBC, a unit of Comcast Corp., said on Friday it was launching an internal probe of Williams' false statements that he was in a helicopter in 2003 that was brought down by enemy fire during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Over the years, Williams had repeated his tale of being aboard a military helicopter during a harrowing forced landing, but he admitted this week that the story was inaccurate.

His apology - in which he said he misremembered the incident - provoked widespread derision, and both military personnel and other journalists have since called for his resignation.

Media observers said Williams was left no choice but to take a break from the anchor's chair.

"This was a good move by Williams and the network to remove him from the air until a decision is reached on his future," said Richard Hanley, director of the graduate program in journalism at Quinnipiac University, in Hamden, Connecticut.

"It would be difficult for the audience to pay attention to what he's reading in terms of the news when the perception is all about this scandal," he said. 

The controversy has embroiled NBC's news division as it competes with other networks for ratings on nightly news broadcasts.

Williams is also facing scrutiny over statements he made about covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including assertions he saw a body float by the Ritz Carlton hotel in New Orleans where he stayed and that he got dysentery from the flood water.