In his first interview since being suspended from NBC Nightly News in February, former anchor Brian Williams sat down with Matt Lauer to discuss his professional mistakes and his future with the network. "It has been torture," Williams said.
Following his suspension, Williams says, he embarked on a soul-searching journey that included a personal review of his life and career. "I was reading these newspaper stories, not liking the person I was reading about," he said. "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 statements I made. I own this. I own up to this."
But while Williams takes responsibility, he also maintains that he never deliberately lied, saying that his false recollections were an unintentional extension of his ego, which made him try to be "sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else."
"It came from a bad place. It came from a sloppy choice of words. I told stories that were not true," he said. "Over the years, looking back, it is very clear. I never intended to. It got mixed up. It got turned around in my mind." When Lauer pressed Williams on the origin of his falsehoods, Williams acknowledged that the stories "came, clearly, from a bad place. A bad urge inside me. This was clearly ego-driven. The desire to better my role in a story I was already in."
But while Williams refused to acknowledge how many other false or exaggerated stories he told over the course of his career — "One is too much. Any number north of zero is too many," he said — he also told viewers that he has learned and changed from the incident.
"What has happened in the past has been identified and torn apart by me, and has been fixed. Has been dealt with. And going forward, there are going to be different rules for the road. I know why people feel the way they do. I get this. I'm responsible for this. I am sorry for what happened here. I am different as a result, and I expect to be held to a different standard."
Yesterday, NBC announced that Lester Holt would become the permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News — a position he's held since Williams was suspended. Williams will move to MSNBC as anchor of breaking news and special reports.