NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams to Take a Leave of Absence

Michael Schneider

As the controversy surrounding NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams expands, the anchor is taking an on-air leave of absence. Lester Holt will fill in during his time off the air.

"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," he wrote in a memo posted on NBCNews.com. "As Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, I have decided to take myself off of my daily broadcast for the next several days, and Lester Holt has kindly agreed to sit in for me to allow us to adequately deal with this issue. Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us."

Williams remains under fire for claims in 2003 that the helicopter he rode in Iraq was hit by enemy fire, a story he has repeated many times over the years. Crew members on the mission have disputed Williams' account.

Williams' decision comes a day after NBC News president Deborah Turness wrote in a staff memo that an internal investigation has been opened. "This has been a difficult few days for all of us at NBC News," she wrote in the Friday memo. "Yesterday, Brian and I spoke to the Nightly News team. And this morning at the Editorial Exchange, we both addressed the wider group. Brian apologized once again, and specifically expressed how sorry he is for the impact this has had on all of you and on this proud organization.

"As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired. We're working on what the best next steps are – and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you."

The controversy has provoked speculation about the future of Williams as an anchor and NBC News employee. The Los Angeles Times reports that Richard Esposito, the head of the news division's investigations unit, is handling the inquiry.